Delegation Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs visits East Netherlands for insights I3 program

Delegation Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs visits East Netherlands for insights I3 program

Mathieu Didry 4 minutes

On February 14th, representatives of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK) and Foreign Affairs paid a working visit to the East Netherlands region. The purpose of this visit was the new Interregional Innovation Investment (I3) program, a European program that has already enabled four projects in the East Netherlands region. The Ministry of Economic Affairs is in the process of determining its position on the European programs for the European Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the period after 2027. This includes the I3 program. They wanted to gain insight into the value of the I3 program for SMEs in the region. Therefore, they visited all four running I3 projects in the eastern Netherlands, with participation of South Netherlands.

I3 is a relatively new instrument, launched in 2021, thanks also to lobbying by the Vanguard Initiative and the VI regions. The I3 instrument is already demonstrating its contribution to strengthening partnerships between regions and enabling market valorization of innovations. In East Netherlands, the I3 program contributes to developing projects within the innovation agenda of the East Netherlands region of Think East Netherlands.

Stan van Oerle, from the unit Innovation and Knowledge at the Ministry of EZK : "Unique to the I3 program is the opportunity for interregional innovation cooperation, investing jointly with European regions."


I3 program promotes interregional innovation collaboration

The day began with a visit to Rijnstate Hospital in Arnhem. They are project partner in the I3 Healthchain project that focuses on stimulating digital transformation of healthcare in European regions. Laura Kooij, manager Innovation & Health Care Transformation at Rijnstate: "In health care, we work with various stand-alone systems for monitoring patients' vital values. Within Rijnstate, we are working on bringing these systems together in the Virtual Care Center, where patients can be monitored from home, which means patients don't stay in the hospital unnecessarily and require far fewer appointments. The I3 Healthchain project is facilitating scale-up of this to make the results more widely available in European regions, using a challenge-based approach. This allows the regions to work on it collaboratively in practice!"

Dirk Koppert, project manager at the New Energy Coalition (NEC), followed with an explanation of the Hy2Market project, of which NEC is lead partner. "Within the Hy2Market project, we are working interregionally to move the entire hydrogen chain forward in European regions. Unique to this under I3 is that each region starts at its own level and SMEs can collaborate with larger companies to work on innovative hydrogen solutions." 

Next, the group visited the company Opiliones in Giesbeek, which participates in the 3D Optimized Printing (3DoP), aimed at optimizing production processes in 3D printing technology. Peter Sluiter, Opiliones: "The project is about getting SMEs at European levels to cooperate with each other. This creates new cooperation opportunities with partners from other European regions. The project brings together different like-minded organizations to work together on innovation."

The final visit was to the Regional Textile Sorting Center Twente (RTT) in Enschede, where the RegioGreenTex project was discussed. RegioGreenTex is a project that promotes cooperation in research and development for the textile industry. Auke van der Slot, RTT: "This is the first European project in which we participate as an organization. This project gives us the opportunity to work together on innovation at the European level, resulting in a wider network. We are also increasingly focused on collaborating with other companies. Innovation does not stop at the Dutch border and I3 helps us with innovations that would otherwise not have been possible. "

During the visit, Sander Karnebeek, team leader Economy Province of Overijssel, presented the 'I3 Position Paper' on behalf of the Think East Netherlands partners to Astrid Bronswijk, Manager Innovation & Knowledge EZK. This contains the experiences and recommendations surrounding this program from the East Netherlands region. The conclusion is that the I3 is the European SME program for valorization and impact on societal challenges. It is an essential addition to the range of European funding, and complementary to programs such as Horizon Europe and Interreg.

I3 added value

Sander Karnebeek: "I3 is a relevant addition in the European and national support instruments to make an impact on our societal challenges. Unique because it puts SMEs in the region at the center. We call for I3 to also be developed into a larger program after 2027 with a strong link to the Horizon Europe program." The EZK was very satisfied with the working visit and the insights it provided, and will use the input from the East Netherlands. From the region we will continue to provide input on this and other programs, to ensure impact among regional SMEs.

The I3 program is designed to promote innovation, stimulate investment and build collaborative European value chains. This program is SME-focused, allowing SMEs to easily implement and develop their innovations through participation in an I3 project.

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