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Neelie Kroes has opened a new innovation fund to help startups get to the market. UNIIQ is an initiative by the universities Erasmus MC, TU Delft, University of and the regional fund of InnovationQuarter, supported by money from the European Union. There’s €22 million to divide and the terms and conditions are pretty good for early-stage startups. There is one catch though: startups not originating from the province of South Holland need not apply.
Convertible loans for proof-of-concept
Startups from South Holland with a disruptive, or at least unique proposition can apply for a fund of at most €300.000, available for 12 months. This will be a convertible loan. The company has to pay the amount back within three years. Or it can turn the loan into shares valued based on a follow-up investment. The fund is specifically designed for companies in the proof-of-concept stage. Too far in the game to poor your own money into it, yet too early to convince VC’s with a solid product.
Bridging the gap
Paul Althuis of TU Delft: “We notice a lot of academic startups have trouble obtaining investments to develop their innovation. The step to venture capital is simply too big. UNIIQ closes this gap.” Rinke Zonneveld, director of InnovationQuarter agrees: “With investment fund InnovationQuarter we see a lot of entrepreneurs contacting us in a too early stage. They are not ready for market yet. UNIIQ is for these entrepreneurs. The fund helps them to bring their innovation to the market, to build their businesscase and to get eady for a follow-up investment.”
‘They make the difference’
“The Netherlands has a lot of very smart startups that take risks and that think in terms of new business or models for society”, says Neelie Kroes who opened the fund this week. “They make the difference in the ways we pay, travel, stay healthy, get old, work and learn. We need capital to let those startups develop their product, service or business model. It’s great that UNIIQ invests in this important growth phase of startups.”
Small country, thinking smaller
Funds for innovations in the industry that are strictly bound to one region in The Netherlands are nothing new. Most of them however focus on SME’s already operating in the market, rather than startups still working on their proof of concept. For instance, companies in Groningen, Drenthe and Friesland can apply for funds with Innovatiefonds Noord-Nederland, where they have €20 million to spend. Province of North Holland has €1,9 million a year for innovative businesses. A similar fund is available for SMEs in Limburg.
The fact that these funds are provided by provinces, local governments and often universities mean they want to keep the innovations close by. Fair enough. But it does lead to the unfortunate situation that the already small area of The Netherlands is divided in even smaller regions where certain innovations are stimulated. Why can’t we all just get along?
Photo: Neelie Kroes and Liduina Hammer (UNIIQ) opening the fund. ©Daniel Verkijk