Support instruments synergies for S3 and Energy Support instruments synergies for S3 and Energy

THE NETHERLANDS, Northern Netherlands

by: Northern Netherlands Alliance (SNN) (Public authority)

S3 domain:    Instead of indicating specific S3 domains, the Northern Netherlands has designated four societal challenges as a starting point for their RIS3. One of those is Reliable, Clean and Efficient Energy, to which the good practice directly contributes. It however also directly or indirectly contributes to the other challenges, which are outlined in the next section.

Energy topics:    Bioenergy    /    Wind Power (onshore)      /    other Energy Efficiency (in Industry, Transport, Services...)

Innovation type:    Technological    /    Service

Level of Good Practice implementation:     Regional

Energy & S3 in the Northern Netherlands


Northern Netherlands Alliance (SNN) is the Managing Authority (MA) of the OP ERDF for the Northern Netherlands. SNN is also responsible for the RIS3, in which energy plays a prominent role. This is reflected in the OP ERDF, the main innovation support instrument and implementation instrument of the RIS3, which focuses on TO1 (innovation) and TO4 (CO2 reduction) and on creating synergies between both objectives.

Instead of prioritizing (sub-)sectors, the Northern Netherlands designates four societal challenges as a starting point of its RIS3: (1) Health, Demography and Welfare, (2) Food Security, Sustainable Agriculture and Bio-based Economy, (3) Reliable, Clean and Efficient Energy and (4) Clean, Safe Water. The regional opportunities regarding innovation and sustainability contribute to tackling these societal challenges. The OP therefore not only focuses on stimulating innovations in general terms (TO1), but also links this to innovations in low-carbon technologies (TO4). This led to the creation of instruments that are dedicated to both objectives.
The Northern Netherlands made an early start creating its RIS3. In 2012, a quadruple helix (Q4) Task Force drafted a position paper which stressed the pioneering role the region endeavours to assume within Europe. Through consultations with stakeholders, the RIS3 was completed the same year. The strategy became operationalized into the Northern Innovation Agenda (NIA), issued in 2014. The RIS3 and NIA formed the basis of the OP ERDF 2014-2020. The OP ERDF is thus based upon the societal challenges. They are guiding the way the Northern Netherlands stimulates innovations in CO2 reduction – and contributes to a smart, sustainable and inclusive EU in 2020.

Governance of the best practice case is a full quadruple helix affair. In the design, implementation and monitoring of the Northern Netherlands RIS3, stakeholder involvement is key. Recently, the Northern Innovation Board (NIB) was formed, consisting of stakeholders from the Q4, tasked with the encouragement and overseeing of the implementation of the RIS3 in the Northern Netherlands. The ERDF Expert Committee and the ERDF Supervisory Committee consist of Q4 stakeholders as well. This best practice case is designed to tackle societal challenges, thus targeting the whole (Q4) society. 

Stakeholders involved in implementation

  •  Public authority
  • Research actors
  • SMEs
  • Civil society 


  • Research actors
  • SMEs
  • Start-ups
  • Civil society


The Northern Netherlands OP ERDF underlines the importance of creating synergies between innovation (TO1) and CO2-reduction (TO4). This results in an integrated approach. Projects and initiatives applying for ERDF instruments can cover both objectives: contributing to enhancing the innovation capacities of SMEs as well as reducing the CO2-footprint. SNN then assigns one of the objectives as the main objective. Two instruments with such an integrated approach are (1) Tender Valorisation (on basis of GBER 651/2014 art. 25, 28 and/or 29) and (2) Call Living Labs (on basis of GBER 651/2014 art. 27).

The main instrument to implement RIS3 is the ERDF. The Northern Netherlands Operational Programme ERDF is focused on TO1 and TO4, which are translated into two priority axes: (1) human capital, knowledge and innovation and (2) a low carbon economy. The budget for SNN’s OP ERDF for 2014-2020 is €103,5 million, supplemented with an additional €18.5 million of the Dutch government, totalling €122 million.

  • ESIF T01 (research and innovation)
  • ESIF T04 (low carbon economy)
  • National Funds

Results achieved

The integrated approach merging R&D with CO2-reduction within the OP ERDF results in ERDF instruments that are amenable for projects under both TO1 and TO4. These instruments, such as the Tender Valorisation and the Call Living Labs, are therefore directed at bringing together knowledge institutions and businesses, and preferably end-users, in order for them to work together. This leads to interesting projects combining innovation and sustainability, while also focused on strengthening SMEs. The number of projects selected and/or funded is 49 and total € invested: € 18,6m. One example is the showcases ‘MegaWindForce Windturbine’ (ERDF tender Valorisation) in which a completely new type of wind turbine has been designed – a design which has been confirmed by several research institutes. This wind turbine is lighter, stronger and lower in maintenance, which makes wind energy better able to compete with other forms of energy. Another example is ‘Energysense’ (ERDF call Living Labs), which set up a Living Lab of over 3000 households to test new energy services and products in a real-life environment; the aim is to make these households at the disposal of SMEs and to develop the corresponding services for SMEs These types of cooperation lead to new ideas and even new innovations – all contributing to tackling the societal challenges linked to a better use of sustainable energy.

Future perspectives

For the future, the Northern Netherlands aims to further develop the synergies between both objectives and enhance the number of projects making use of the dedicated ERDF instruments. Also, we would like the projects to  incorporate multiple actors and to include businesses and knowledge institutions, which cooperate in a creative environment and together develop new innovations in the field of clean energy – with the aim of making the Northern Netherlands a frontrunner in S3 and energy.

Energysense Living Lab project, one of the projects covering both TO1 and TO4 in the OP ERDF of the Northern Netherlands


This approach of finding synergies between innovation and CO2-reduction can be seen as a way to kill two birds with one stone: contributing to both TO1 and TO4 at the same time. The ERDF instruments Valorisation and Living Labs are quite successful in this regard. By encouraging various actors to cooperate in developing promising niches, new ideas arise that can grow out to become innovations – and ultimately, regional economic strengths, benefitting society as a whole. This has led to the Northern Netherlands becoming a region known for its strength in energy transition through innovation.

Most important difficulties

Even though there are some very good examples of projects combining innovation with CO2 reduction through their ERDF funding, the number of these best practices could be enhanced. The most important difficulty hindering a larger amount of applications for innovation support is a lack of knowledge regarding the specific instruments, as well as the idea that funding applications are long, difficult and bureaucratic processes. Lessening the fragmentation between innovation support instruments and optimizing the coordination between different policy levels might help creating a more overseeable landscape of innovation measures. Efficient communication and information actions are crucial in this regard.

Lessons learned
With regard to difficulties, the first lesson is to develop an effective communication plan, which highlights the specific activities to undertake in order to realize a wider knowledge of the availability of innovation support instruments, leading to more and better applications. Another lesson is to facilitate rather than limit innovative and promising initiatives by widening the executive- or implementation frameworks of innovation support measures. SNN has developed a pilot ERDF instrument ‘Open Innovation’, which primarily aims at projects contributing to tackling the societal challenges of the RIS3 and contributing to the OP’s synergetic thematic objectives. 

The good practice as presented in the Northern Netherlands might be disseminated across Europe by several dedicated communication activities. First of all, through the European Commission and the S3 platform itself, on their websites, newsletters, publications, etc. Secondly, SNN communicates these good practices on their communication channels and the website ‘Europa om de Hoek’ ( It might also be an idea to construct a (European) database of exemplary projects, which are showcased to inspire other regions. Project visits as part of interregional cooperation projects (H2020, Interreg) and bilateral study visits might also be a good way to exhibit the good practice.


  • Strategic programme
  • Key actors Platform (for regional cooperation)


  • Relevance to national and/or regional energy strategy
  • Cross-domain interactions (R&D&I and energy)
  • Synergetic use of several funds
  • Continuous Entrepreneurial Discovery Process 


The references below exist only in Dutch (with the exception of the OP, see last reference)

Tender Valorisation

Call Living Labs

Contact person:

Luc Hulsman (SNN)    +31(0)50 5224 945

Mega Windforce (MWF) project, one of the projects covering both TO1 and TO4 in the OP ERDF of the Northern Netherlands