Innovative projects given additional €1.35 billion boost due to funding from National Growth Fund

€1.35 billion will be allocated from the National Growth Fund to projects relating to artificial intelligence, regenerative medicine, health data infrastructure, quantum technology and hydrogen/green chemistry. Five proposals for projects designed to boost research and innovation, submitted by State Secretary of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy Mona Keijzer on behalf of the collaborating companies, knowledge institutions and government agencies, have had funding allocated and set aside for later use.

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According to the independent advisory committee that reviewed the proposals, these projects will contribute to economic growth and strengthen research and innovation ecosystems and the Netherlands' high international ranking in knowledge and competitiveness. The recommendation issued by the advisory committee on the grant applications submitted in the first round of the National Growth Fund's submission review procedure was adopted by the Council of Ministers today. In addition to proposals designed to make the Netherlands more innovative, the committee reviewed proposals designed to boost the Dutch transport infrastructure (Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment) and knowledge development (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science). A total of 15 proposals were reviewed.

According to State Secretary for Economic Affairs Mona Keijzer: “Innovation aimed at digitisation, sustainability and health featured prominently at the start of the National Growth Fund application review procedure. This is good for all Dutch people. After all, research and development are the key to sustainable growth and therefore to the jobs and income we will have in the future.”

The State Secretary went on to say: “The great amounts of public funding awarded to these five innovative projects will help significantly in keeping our country prosperous. The government must assume a more active role in allowing research, innovation and technology to develop further, in allowing start-ups to grow and in attracting talent, so as to keep the Netherlands innovative, thus strengthening our position in the broader international context. I think the collaborating companies, knowledge institutions and government agencies involved in these projects will have great opportunities to earn serious money while resolving these challenges.”

With respect to research and development (R&D) and innovation, the following five proposals were allocated funding:

1. Quantum Delta Netherlands – €615 million

As far as expertise of quantum technology is concerned, the Netherlands is one of the top-ranking countries in the world. The proposal designed to further develop the quantum technology ecosystem and convert it into business will be awarded the full amount requested (€615 million). Quantum Delta Nederland collaborates in Amsterdam, Delft, Eindhoven, Leiden and Twente with a large coalition of companies, universities and other knowledge institutions, with a view to establishing the requisite infrastructure and developing the technology and its practical applicability. The plan also involves investing in employees for the future, so as to ensure that this new sector will have sufficient trained personnel as soon as it becomes operational.

Quantum technology is predicated on two principles: entanglement and superposition. Entanglement means that two particles are connected in a non-physical manner. When one of them changes, the other changes with it at once: faster than the speed of light. This allows for the creation of new, extremely safe and fast networks and communication networks. Superposition ensures that qubits can be 0 and 1 simultaneously, unlike regular bits, which can only be either 0 or 1. This will significantly increase a computer's computing power. A quantum computer can handle calculations that would take regular present-day computers centuries to perform.

Quantum Delta Nederland is developing the first quantum computer, whose computing speed will be of great importance to more efficient production or transport. But the network is also working on the first larger quantum network and on quantum sensors that are able to measure changes in very small particles, such as DNA. Another future contribution will be its contribution to cybersecurity through a secure (quantum) Internet.

2. Regenerative medicine; RegMed XB – €56 million

Two biomedical innovation proposals will be awarded the full amount of funding requested in the grant application. The first of these is RegMed XB (€56 million), which will build four pilot plants in the Netherlands (Eindhoven, Leiden, Maastricht, Utrecht) for the development of regenerative medicine. The focus of regenerative medicine is on repairing damage to cells, tissues and organs, which allows doctors to prevent or cure chronic diseases.

Healthcare is a growing industry all over the world due to population growth and ageing. In other words, effective therapies involving gene and stem cell therapy represent a major economic opportunity, as well. RegMed XB's economic objective is to enable Dutch businesses to develop these innovative products and processes in association with researchers and so to tap into a fast-growing foreign market.

3. Health-RI: health data infrastructure – €69 million

The second proposal with a focus on biomedical innovation deals with the creation of an integrated and secure national health data infrastructure. The focus here is on pooling and re-using Dutch knowledge on the subject of health, rather than on a patient care data infrastructure. The Health-RI public-private partnership requested an amount of €69 million, which will be awarded in full.

Data is currently still managed in a fragmented way by many healthcare providers and scientific organisations, such as academic medical centres. It is essential that these organisations join forces to develop new and more effective (personalised) solutions for diagnosis, treatment and prevention faster and more cheaply. The large amount of new vital knowledge about lifestyle, health and disease, combined with technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), will benefit both our health and Dutch companies active in this field.

4. Scale-up of hydrogen and green electrons in the manufacturing industry – €338 million

The Groenvermogen (“green power”) proposal, which is designed to scale up the use of hydrogen and green electrons in energy-intensive components of the manufacturing industry, was awarded a portion (€338 million) of the requested amount of funding. The proposal concerns a fully integrated approach taken by companies, government agencies and knowledge institutions active in this sector, including a comprehensive and coherent research and innovation programme and an education agenda. Moreover, the development may go a long way towards helping the Netherlands meet its requirements under the Paris Agreement.

The public investment should create a strong and flexible hydrogen ecosystem that will form the basis for the scaling-up of hydrogen and electrochemistry. Industrial clusters that may present us with opportunities in this regard are situated in the northern provinces of the Netherlands, Amsterdam, Rotterdam/Moerdijk, Zeeland, Arnhem, Brainport Eindhoven and Limburg (Chemelot).

More research and innovations will be needed to allow us to use green hydrogen efficiently and more cheaply eventually. This will also present the Netherlands with interesting revenue models, in which the country may produce the products or become their international distributor.

5. AiNed: artificial intelligence investment programme – €276 million

The Dutch AI Coalition (NL AIC), a public-private partnership consisting of more than 250 participants, will be granted a large share (€276 million) of the amount it had requested to fund the first phase of its artificial intelligence (AI) investment proposal. The so-called AiNed programme was drawn up to put the Netherlands in the group of countries leading the international pack both in terms of creating the right social conditions and reaping the economic benefits of AI.

AI has many potential applications, e.g. in more efficient energy systems, smarter transport and logistics or higher-quality healthcare. The proposal focuses on a coordinated Dutch approach, designed to increase knowledge of AI and make AI more easily applicable through research, innovation, commercial knowledge transfer and education, and to ensure the human-centred, responsible application of AI in society.

In seeking to accelerate the implementation of AI in the Netherlands, the focus will be on the sectors that will increase the country's earning capacity most: the high-tech industry, transport, logistics, energy, health and healthcare. The strategic programme will therefore invest in attracting and retaining talented AI scientists, training and education, the development of social frameworks for applications and more intense participation in European programmes, which will also result in the Netherlands attracting more EU funding.

Second round of applications for funding from the National Growth Fund

In the first round of the submission procedure, State Secretary Mona Keijzer submitted a total of six proposals for funding, on behalf of the parties involved. The FoodSwitch proposal was not granted any funding. The National Growth Fund has announced that a second round will be held later this year, in which parties will be able to submit both new and revised requests for funding. Research and development (R&D) and innovation will continue to be one of the Fund's focus areas. The Fund has been endowed with a total of €20 billion that will be able to be allocated between now and 2026. In the first round of submissions, €4 billion's worth of funding was allocated (subject to conditions for certain proposals) and set aside for later.