Executive summary

Key findings

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the Netherlands are involved in an important new endeavour – to promote "valorisation"; i.e. the creation of value from scientific knowledge through economic and/or societal use. From 2005 onwards, HEIs have included valorisation in their institutional strategies. Significant national government funding has also been available for HEI projects from 2010-18 through the "Valorisation Programme". Although the programme has recently come to an end, HEIs are likely to take over much of the funding for key structures and activities from their core budgets. To avoid overdependence on project-based funding, future policy interventions will need to consider how to ensure sustainability.

The valorisation – or value creation – agenda has had many benefits. It has supported the introduction of new staff profiles and initiatives to broaden career paths for HEI staff (e.g. policy advisors). It supported an increase in collaboration between HEIs, joint initiatives with city and regional governments, and boosted research activities in the Universities of Applied Sciences.

Valorisation has also enhanced interdisciplinarity, with further stimulus from the 2016 Dutch Research Agenda. Evaluating practices and barriers in HEIs will clarify whether existing initiatives are sufficient, or whether more flexibility will be needed for HEIs to introduce and sustain interdisciplinary initiatives and whether national funding is needed to further support interdisciplinarity.

A key part of the valorisation agenda involves supporting startups by staff and students. Most HEIs offer idea generation activities, training, incubation, mentoring and networking. However, entrepreneurship support actors and activities are not always well-connected within the HEI, and support should be made more accessible for alumni.

In common with many other OECD countries, barriers exist in the Netherlands to business growth following the very early stage. In particular, young firms have to overcome the double-constraint of lack of internal resources and limited access to external resources. HEIs can help with their networks and reputation. The organisation of large entrepreneurship events (e.g. Get in the Ring) has built powerful global networks for startups, and many HEIs have growing numbers of students and staff from abroad. This international exposure is an excellent opportunity that could be further exploited for valorisation and entrepreneurship.

Many HEIs are offering a rich variety of entrepreneurship education activities. These efforts could be enhanced by offering activities earlier (for awareness raising), and ensuring that they are available and accessible to all students from across all disciplines. It should be recognised that it is not always easy for students to manage the requirements of a full‐time study programme and pursue a “startup dream”. There are already several good examples of how HEIs in the Netherlands support these students.

Valorisation takes many forms. Efforts are therefore underway in the Netherlands to define a common set of indicators, with the aim of showing how valorisation contributes to education and research, and how it creates societal and economic impact. Currently each HEI reports on its valorisation activities and results through a combination of self-selected indicators and narratives. While this approach describes the activities and outcomes of individual HEIs, it does not capture the system-wide extent of activities and impact nor does it show how valorisation feeds into education and research.

Overall, when considering future policies to support valorisation and entrepreneurship through higher education, building more and better synergies between the core functions of education, research and knowledge exchange are important. For this, co-ordination mechanisms amongst the different ministries are crucial and should be strengthened.

Recommendations

Recommendations for government

  • Establish a national programme for research on valorisation in higher education. A national research initiative on processes, outcomes and impacts (i.e., going beyond results) would provide very valuable lessons for future policy making in the Netherlands and in other countries, particularly in view of the current efforts to establish a common set of impact indicators.

  • Ensure sustainability in funding for valorisation whilst stimulating synergies between education, research and valorisation activities. This can be achieved by further anchoring valorisation in quality agreements and funding models with HEIs whilst stimulating synergies between education, research and valorisation activities. For this, effective co-ordination mechanisms between different ministries and agencies are important.

Recommendations for higher education institutions

  • Support staff to effectively participate in valorisation. Development and training programmes, as well as centrally-anchored support mechanisms for staff to manage relationships, are fundamental and should be continued and expanded.

  • Recognise staff participation and performance in valorisation. Job descriptions, tasks and promotion procedures should take into consideration participation and performance in valorisation processes.

  • Enhance the participation of students in valorisation. Emerging interdisciplinary research platforms and regionally-anchored activities (e.g. City Deals and StartupDelta) should seek greater student involvement. Recognition of the acquired competencies is important (e.g. diploma supplements).

  • Support students in managing study requirements and pursuing a startup. Several good initiatives are underway. Information should be widely disseminated.

  • Strengthen the institutional positioning of entrepreneurship centres. Entrepreneurship centres can play a key role in valorisation and need to be strongly connected with the wider range of valorisation activities. Using the HEInnovate self-assessment tool can help to identify gaps.

  • Strengthen links with entrepreneurial alumni. A first step would be to allow and encourage alumni to make use of the entrepreneurship support offer of the HEIs they attended.

Recommendations for joint action

  • Capacity building for better synergies between education, research and valorisation and for measuring impact. The new quality agreements could incentivise and support HEIs in building synergies and strengthening their communication efforts.

  • Provide training opportunities for entrepreneurship educators. A national training programme could be introduced in addition to the HEI-specific offer.

  • Enhance interdisciplinarity in education and research within and between HEIs. Programme accreditation could be further directed towards encouraging interdisciplinarity and incentives could be introduced to promote greater sharing of research facilities. Successful collaboration with local and regional stakeholders should be strengthened.

  • Strengthen the role of HEIs in supporting startups with growth potential. Greater collaboration across the HEIs (e.g. Amsterdam Centre for Entrepreneurship) and effective connections between different support initiatives will make access to support easier for startups. This is relevant both at national and regional levels, as well as within specific sectors.

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