Last week the so called M4H area, where the Erasmus Center of Entrepreneurship and our office are located, was renamed innovation district and it was buzzing with start up and innovation related activities. After the financial crises, crumbling some large institutions and shaking some existing beliefs about companies, the world started to notice the importance and dynamics of entrepreneurs and start up’s resulting in a hausse of programs, educational initiatives and locations.

Our region is no exception with university incubators, service providers and a number of – Boston inspired – location concepts. The overall idea is to increase the odds and main stream entrepreneurship, no longer limited to a small group of risk takers and global cities.


Simultaneously entrepreneurship caught the attention of academics and, leading to a more fact based and sometimes sobering view on the real effects of the increased attention for entrepreneurship. The last decade, for example, saw a doubling of entrepreneurial activity in the Netherlands. This was, however, largely a growth of solo self employed and not of so called scaleable enterprises. Jobs are created by growth companies that cross the valley of death. Their needs are pretty straightforward – assuming they have competitive technologies and business models – : adequate financing, talent and customers. The right amount and quality of mentoring can also be a positive influence on growth of these companies.

This analysis holds true for Clean Tech companies as well. They have longer development cycles and are in most cases relatively capital intensive. They offer products and services that improve current solutions in existing supply chains, therefore they need good insight in the customer needs and alignment with the other supply chain partners. Understanding the complexity of such business marketing environment and a good scale up plan are potential mentoring targets where experience can be deployed. I was invited for a keynote on Clean Tech 2.0 during last week’s Clean Tech Summit. The short of it : still bullish on clean tech, particularly also in relation to our region, investors are more realistic and informed about clean tech being a broad and diverse area where financial returns can go hand in hand with environmental benefits.

The development of an entrepreneurial clean tech environment poses the question of the right design, philosophy, leadership and long term plan for a sustainable and vibrant ecosystem. The way these clusters evolve has changed over time as a result of our networked society empowering entrepreneurship and transforming industry. Characteristics of successful ecosystems are, for example, enough scale to matter, horizontal networks with anopen and sharing culture, attractive to innovative and creative individuals and led by entrepreneurs. Governments need to take a more supportive role and universities can add important things like labs, startup facilitators and technology transfer units. All things we can witness in our region. These communities become more powerful if there is a good balance between feeders and leaders and people are always more important than institutions. If the regional Next Economy project will provide us with a shared vision on the clean tech opportunities and how clean tech can help to transform existing industries to find new levels of competitiveness, the ecosystem can start to operate in a synchronised way and the entrepreneurial value chain will be taken to a next level.

This blog was written on October 25th 2015 and cannot resist sharing my 2ct’s worth of thoughts on Paris COP 21. It should produce an agreement robust enough to seduce investors to invest in the low carbon economy. Hopefully it will lead to a global carbon pricing framework (not so optimistic about this) with legally binding enforcement mechanisms. There is much at stake so a diplomatic success only is not enough.

– Fred van Beuningen