Accelerating the energy transition in Zuid-Holland
November 5, 2023
Photo: Province Zuid-Holland
How human capital development, entrepreneurship, and innovation accelerate the energy transition in Zuid-Holland
On November 7th, the eighth edition of ImpactFest takes place, where impact entrepreneurs, investors, government representatives, and other impactmakers meet, discuss, and make plans to accelerate impact businesses and benefit people and the planet. With its location in The Hague, surrounded by a highly effective innovation ecosystem, the business community has imbued an attitude that fuels entrepreneurship and innovation. Stimulated by ImpactCity, that entrepreneurial vibe has attracted impact makers to the city, contributing to what is now a fast growing and highly attractive impact business community.
Primary sponsor of ImpactFest is the Province of Zuid-Holland, and speaking at ImpactFest is Bram Spitzer, Energy Innovation Officer. In his session, he will discuss the innovation challenges in early stage impact ocean energy-ventures.
“Zuid-Holland has a highly effective innovation-ecosystem, and ImpactCity is a valuable component in that ecosystem. I’m therefore thrilled to speak at ImpactFest again, where that ecosystem comes together and truly accelerates developments. Valuable connections are made there that often lead to concrete actions.”
Bram is looking forward to discussing the challenges he sees energy startups face when growing their business at ImpactFest. “Some pieces of the zero-emission energy mix are already in place, such as wind at sea and solar power are more mature in their development stage. But we still have a way to go before we have the complete sustainable energy system in place.” He continues: “Land scarcity has directed our sights to the North Sea, where large wind parks are built. This area provides numerous opportunities for co-using the space with additional energy solutions, both for production and storage.” Some examples Bram mentions are SolarDuck, which is developing floating solar parks, and Weco, which is developing a solution that produces electricity from wave energy.
“We need these diverse start-ups in order to accelerate the transition and build the companies that will contribute to our sustainable economy in our region in the future,” says Bram. But for these startups, growing and ultimately scaling their business is challenging. Finding investments is difficult for innovative hardware companies because of the high risks and costs involved. Together with partners such as InnovationQuarter and Economic Board Zuid-Holland, the Province of Zuid-Holland has established instruments for funding and validation such as ENERGIIQ, and innovation program Energie & Klimaat through which support and subsidies are available. Additional public and private investors and organisations in the region also enable innovative energy startups to validate their technology and enter the market. But large-scale operations in the energy sector require higher investments than these funds typically offer. This is an issue the Province of Zuid-Holland is addressing and trying to find solutions for with relevant parties.
At ImpactFest, public and private investors are present, as well as advisors on applying for subsidies and using available R&D and test and demo facilities. Impact investors are actively looking for new innovative organisations to invest in as they pitch for entrepreneurs at the Reverse Pitching program element. They welcome discussions with entrepreneurs on how to minimise the bottlenecks for startups and facilitate their growth.
As part of his mission, Bram also supports students at TU Delft on entrepreneurship in an effort to prepare them for a startup journey. “These highly skilled and motivated startups add additional value to our society if they develop innovative solutions and bring them to the market, than they would as employees in large companies, that’s why I am so bound on promoting entrepreneurship,” Bram concludes.
Educating students and professionals about entrepreneurship and future skills is something that Henk Bakker, Program Manager Human Capital for Economic Board Zuid-Holland (EBZ) and the Province of Zuid-Holland has high on his agenda as well.
“Human capital is the key enabler in the transitions we face, and with an already tight labor market, every effort must be made to create an adequate supply of talent”
“We have therefore gathered 150 committed partners from the triple helix; government organisations, educators, and companies, to make concrete plans that will result in increased talent supply. The plans include efforts to better align education with the needs of companies as well as up-skilling and re-skilling of the current workforce,” he continues. Across educators, from vocational, college, and academic institutes, entrepreneurship is part of the program. “From our point of view, entrepreneurship is not strictly an issue of starting a new company, although that is also an important part. But it’s also about promoting an entrepreneurial mindset to initiate change within established organisations. Therefore we stimulate not only new skills but also work with organisations to establish new HRM and modern leadership programmes within companies. These programs help reduce problems with employee retention, increase productivity and make companies more innovative and competitive.”
Partners in the Human Capital Akkoord like Haagse Hogeschool, a university for applied science, help employers to develop their companies in that direction. In the strategy of Province Zuid-Holland, they work with concrete projects to help companies and to work on lifelong learning. Also in the energy transition, for example with their project EnergySwitch. But they also build on structural labour market transition, for example via campus development, where education and research institutes, startups, scale-ups, and large organisations are located in and around the same area with R&D and testing facilities and where networking and collaboration are actively stimulated. This approach accelerates innovation in a way that naturally utilises the assets and skills of each partner and therefore increases the chances of success.