The research and innovation programme NanoNextNL has built up a unique and vibrant nano/microtechnology ecosystem at a scale that has never been achieved in any technical field in the Netherlands. This is one of the main conclusions of the final End Term Report of NanoNextNL, which was published last month. The updated End Term Report (2017) shows new achievements of the NanoNextNL programme (2010-2016) regarding science, valorisation and responsible innovation.

Highlights NanoNextNL programme as presented in End Term Report 2017 (click to enlarge image)

Increase in scientific output

Since its start in 2010, NanoNextNL has created a very large knowledge base in nano/microscience and technology as demonstrated in the preliminary End Term Report published in 2016. The recently published update shows an increased output in science:

  • Over 1250 peer-reviewed publications
  • Over 130 PhD theses; little short of 100 still to be published
  • Over 150 publications with an impact factor > 10
  • All NanoNextNL themes performed above world-average regarding citations
  • At least 95 granted EU projects
  • Already 127 unique patents

The updated NanoNextNL Research Appendix (2017) provides detailed information about the scientific output.

Achievements in valorisation

One important mission of the NanoNextNL programme has been to foster the transfer of knowledge from nanoscience and technology into new applications and business. This focus on valorisation has resulted in the following achievements:

  • 24 start-ups benefitted from NanoNextNL
  • 18 start-ups emerged from NanoNextNL
  • 86 demonstrators were developed
  • Average Technology Readiness Level (TRL) rose from 4.9 to 6.9
    • TRL 4.9: the stage of technology development – validation in a lab environment
    • TRL 6.9: the stage of system development – a system/prototype is tested in the relevant working environment
  • Over 50% of the participants in the Valorisation Programme have:
    • Found new funding
    • Acquired a client or potential client
    • An estimated market value that remained stable or grew
  • The patent-over-budget-filing ratio was 15 times higher than the average within the EU FP 7 programme (normalised by the total budget of NanoNextNL)


Safe-by-Design innovation

Risk Analysis and Technology Assessment (RATA) has been strongly integrated with the NanoNextNL research and development programme, bringing responsible research and Safe-by-Design innovation into practice, also in the development of new businesses. Tools for the detection of nanomaterials and understanding mechanisms of (eco)toxicity were developed to support new regulations and develop international policy. Since 2016 the following results were achieved:

  • A toolbox for technology assessment for researchers and technology developers is freely available:
  • The RATA research theme participated in about 30 EU projects
  • Researchers from the programme have supported the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice by investigating the significance of nanotechnology for civil security applications

Read more about the Safe-by-Design tools here

Follow-up to NanoNextNL

The successful NanoNextNL integrated approach involves strongly interlinked programmes composed of collaborative projects between academic and industrial partners. Using this method in a follow-up programme will guarantee a high-return-on investment for Dutch industry and society, and provides an efficient and effective road towards a more sustainable society. The Board of NanoNextNL is now holding discussions with private partners and government ministries to explore the possibilities of a follow-up programme targeting these goals. Researchers from NanoNextNL are active within two routes of the Dutch National Research Agenda (NWA) and have taken the leading role in the route ‘Quantum/nanorevolution’ and the route ‘Materials – Made in Holland’.

About NanoNextNL

A total of 13 universities, 8 medical centres, 12 knowledge institutes and 110 industrial partners have collaborated within NanoNextNL (2010-2016). Since its start in 2010 the research and innovation programme has created a very large knowledge base in nano/microscience and technology, involving over 750 researchers. Together with universities and companies, the Dutch government has invested € 251 million in NanoNextNL.

Read more

• NanoNextNL End Term Report (2017)
• NanoNextNL Eindrapport (2017)
• NanoNextNL Updated Research Appendix (2017)
• Overview of Safe-by-Design tools
• Leaflet Maatschappelijk relevant innoveren met technologische publiek-private samenwerkingen (2017)

The NanoNextNL Valorisation Programme being part of the larger NanoNextNL Research Programme, ran for three years and was reviewed and assessed positively by the Technopolis Group. The innovative aspects cited in the report Evaluation Valorisation Programme NanoNextNL are:

  • tooling to develop and assess business cases
  • the stage-gate approach
  • the coaching and training ecosystem
  • the explicit evaluation of safety and society aspects
  • the fact that it is developed and executed by a public-private consortium itself.

Main strengths and successes

The evaluation cited the main strengths and successes of the NanoNextNL Valorisation Programme as being: the link with the research programme, the type of funding, the support received, the limited administrative burden, the programme’s entrepreneurial focus, the assessment process and the accessibility of the programme (due to the stage-gate approach). Furthermore, the programme helped to strengthen business cases, even before awarding a subsidy, which improved the quality of awarded business cases.

Recommendations for future valorisation programmes

This evaluation study of the Valorisation Programme of NanoNextNL is intended to look back to the past and ahead to the future, to learn from the programme and to identify lessons for future valorisation programmes. These recommendations for future valorisation programmes, based on the successful approach en lessons learned, may be of interest to policymakers that active in the field of science and innovation:

  • Focus valorisation programmes on the phase of participants, such as their TRL (Technology Readiness Level), and the type of participants.
  • Either limit the number of potential applicants or increase the available budget to counter low selectivity and low success rates.
  • Embed valorisation programmes in the (national) innovation landscape.
    • Better embedment could result in an uptake in other programmes or by investors at the end of the valorisation programme and could improve successful valorisation in the landscape as whole.
  • Make (business) coaching and training an integral part of valorisation programmes.
    • Results from the SME Instrument have shown that Instrument coaching combined with a grant has a positive effect on the results of SMEs.

Developing business cases

The Valorisation Programme was intended to ‘identify, nurture and develop product and business ideas emerging from the science and technology in NanoNextNL’. The programme consisted of several stages in which participants received funding to further develop their business case with the help of business tools and coaching. Participants who developed a strong, potentially successful business case were awarded funding to further develop their business. In four calls, over 3.1 million euros of funding was allocated to the programme’s participants, of which almost 2.8 million euros was direct subsidy.

Success rate of 65%

The programme generated 44 business cases using the Lean Business Model Canvas of which 28 were awarded a subsidy in the final stage. The average success rate of the programme’s calls was 65%. The programme resulted in many elaborated business plans; in new products, new IP, new clients and diversification of existing business activities; and in some start-ups, new services, financing from external investors and successful participation in other valorisation or incubation programmes. On average business cases increased by 2 TRLs  and their potential value increased by 59 million euros. Participants were able to acquire a total 4.4 million euros in new funding.

Supporting participants to commercialise knowledge successfully

Participants in the programme were positive about many aspects. The level and quality of support were assessed best. The majority indicated that the programme has helped them successfully commercialise the knowledge developed within NanoNextNL. The phased approach was valued, as well as the received assistance and funding.
The programme was compared to two other valorisation programmes: the Dutch Take-Off and the European SME Instrument. Given that the selection procedure was sufficient, the overall success rate was significantly higher. In the light of this outcome the NanoNextNL Valorisation Programme was operated more efficiently considering the relatively smaller support budget. Also internal coaching was viewed as being less rigid.

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