'RVO is more than just a subsidy factory' – Gerko Slotman 

Most of us mainly know the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland, also known as RVO.nl) as an institution that provides subsidies and subsidy schemes. But did you know that they also provide information on doing business abroad and that they have useful contacts in Brussels? 'We are known for being a subsidy factory,' says Gerko Slotman, a consultant at RVO, 'but we have so much more to offer.' Recently, Gerko has come to Novel-T twice a month to help entrepreneurs find their way in the myriad services offered by the government. 

Gerko confesses that not all entrepreneurs are familiar with the name "RVO.nl". 'But many people do know SenterNovem, Dienst Regelingen or the EVD.' In 2014, all these organisations were merged into the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), so as to create one single point of contact and executive agency. Certain activities carried out by the former product boards have also been incorporated into RVO. Along with his nearly four thousand colleagues in the Netherlands, Gerko will help entrepreneurs like yourself strengthen their companies and international position. 

Closer to entrepreneurs 

'Due to the growth of our organisation, and due to the fact that at rvo.nl, we tend to communicate on line, we were meeting entrepreneurs face to a decreasing extent,' Gerko explains. 'At StartupDelta we noticed that companies and start-ups have a genuine need for a sparring partner within the government. As a result, there are now several places in the Netherlands where entrepreneurs can talk to consultants in person. And I’m the one doing so for Twente at Novel-T.' 

Doing international business in a sustainable and innovative way 

Twelve billion euros. That is the value of RVO’s subsidy budget this year. The Subsidy Guide that can be found on rvo.nl lists no fewer than 114 subsidy schemes. 'People regularly ask me what kind of subsidies we offer specifically for, say, farms,' says Gerko. 'My answer: none. We do not specifically focus on certain economic sectors. We do focus on doing international business in a sustainable and innovative manner. So if you are a farmer who has international ambitions or seeks to develop an innovative product, we offer you a lot of opportunities.' Well-known schemes include the Innovation Credit scheme, the WBSO (which awards research-and-development grants) and the EU’s Horizon 2020 scheme. 

Guarantee scheme will help you get a loan 

Since there is such a plethora of subsidy schemes, it can be hard to find the right scheme. 'If you can’t find the right scheme for you, schedule an appointment and ask me for my input. You can do so, too, if you are planning to apply for a guarantee scheme,' says Gerko. A guarantee scheme for loans to the SME sector, in which the government acts as the guarantor, eliminates financial risk on the bank’s part, which will generally cause your bank to be willing to give you a loan. 'Getting financing continues to be difficult for entrepreneurs. The government is willing to help, for instance by providing entrepreneurs with innovation credit or acting as their guarantor. Sometimes banks have cold feet. I can help you get them to give you a loan, thus enabling you to expand your company or build a new office.' 

International support provided by RVO.nl 

So now we are talking subsidies and subsidy schemes again. 'That’s right, because to a considerable degree that is what we do. But we also have a great deal of knowledge of international markets. Not to mention all the expertise held by our contacts at embassies and consulates! They will literally open doors for entrepreneurs – for instance, during trade missions.' The rvo.nl website lists many examples of companies RVO helped realise their ambitions, both regionally and internationally. 

Connecting entrepreneurs, organisations and government agencies 

Gerko knows Overijssel province and the Twente region well and has many contacts here. 'I really enjoy living here, and I used to work at the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ regional directorate for several years,' Gerko explains. His network of contacts at various government agencies is standing him in good stead in his current capacity as an ambassador. 'I can quickly hook entrepreneurs up with colleagues at RVO who will know something about, say, that one specific Asian market. Or an expert who can help them decide whether it is wise to apply for a patent.' In addition, Gerko helps establish links between the national government and regional organisations such as Regio Twente, Oost NL, the Province and Novel-T. 'This is how we ensure that the nation-wide and regional services provided meet entrepreneurs’ requirements,' he says. 

If you have a question you would like to ask RVO.nl, contact Novel-T at contact@novelt.com or at +31 (0)53 483 6800 to schedule an appointment. Gerko can be found at Novel-T on every first and third Monday of the month. 

Read more about the services provided by RVO here.

Or visit RVO’s website: www.rvo.nl

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