The COVID-19 crisis has been sweeping through Europe for the past few months. Many businesses had to close, on government’s orders, or because customers stopped showing up, or due to whole value chains collapsing. Even more enterprises had to reinvent themselves. And some businesses witnessed the productivity of a lifetime.
Since March, it has been all hands on deck for the Dutch government, and especially my department, to roll out enough support schemes for Dutch enterprises. From the freelance sustainability consultant to the international ceramics manufacturer or the salad bar franchise, all had to be able to seek support.
As the Index of Dynamic Entrepreneurship (IDE) 2020 report demonstrates, The Netherlands saw a significant slump in the access to financing due to the pandemic. This could particularly harm the creation of new, innovative firms in the medium and long term, apart from the direct liquidity problems it poses to existing companies. To mitigate and counteract this, the Dutch government is committed to improving the access to financing for entrepreneurs now and on the long term. Apart from a wide range of financial support instruments for enterprises (8, excluding tax extensions and sector-specific aid measures) set up in direct response to the pandemic, we are doing this by creating several funds that consider the long term. In total, we set aside 500 million Euros for these funds. An example is the Dutch Future Fund (DFF), erected by InvestNL and the European Investment Fund (EIF). The DFF will invest in venture and growth capital funds committed to supporting innovative Dutch SMEs. My department is also working on setting up a Deep Tech Fund focusing on knowledge-intensive tech startups and a fund stimulating co-investments of alternative financiers.
Lastly, we are mobilizing our European colleagues. On the 16th of October 2020, we organized the digital European Entrepreneurship Summit (EES) which brought together European policymakers, entrepreneurs, investors and other ecosystem builders. During the EES, a call-to-action drafted by my department was presented and finetuned by all the stakeholders. The call-to-action pleads for greater European cooperation on stimulating private equity and venture capital co-investment funds and actively involving institutional and private investors. This week, the European SME Assembly (November 16, 2020) accepted the call-to-action. Moreover, the Dutch State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy Mona Keijzer brought the call-to-action forward during the European Competitiveness Council meeting (November 19, 2020) where it was discussed by European Affairs Ministers, Industry Ministers, Research Ministers, and others.
Developments such as these showcase the importance and power of international cooperation and strengthen my belief that we will invest and innovate our way out of the crisis together. A message also eminently propagated by the Global Entrepreneurship Week. Even during a pandemic we manage to come together digitally, supporting entrepreneurship across the globe. Together we can build a stronger and fairer entrepreneurship ecosystem that will shape the economy of the future and find solutions to the global challenges our societies face today.