Where do the Economy Economy Innovation Tariffs end up?

The government generously scatters subsidies for ICT and innovation. But where does the money end up, and do we shoot something up? Advisors and knowledge brokers are doing well. 'You can always get money, but just take a good plan and do it well.' Anyone who looks at the subsidies that the Ministry of Economic Affairs is ready for innovation and ICT is soon faced with clichés and typing.

The government generously scatters subsidies for ICT and innovation. But where does the money end up, and do we shoot something up? Advisors and knowledge brokers are doing well. 'You can always get money, but just take a good plan and do it well.'

Anyone who looks at the subsidies that the Ministry of Economic Affairs is ready for innovation and ICT is soon faced with clichés and typing. A maze! A jungle, not to get through! A game! Dance for the money! And, of course, it has become an industry in itself, full of advisors and 'knowledge brokers' who do say they can find the way.

It is also not nothing what EZ has in numerous pots and jars. A small 1.9 billion euros is available for 2010. Perhaps this amount will drop to 1.6 billion because of the 'Wide Revaluation', the large-scale cuts that are on its way, but then still.

The examples sometimes make you dizzy. For example, the Ministry of Economic Affairs contributed one million euros to the 17 th World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT), which was held in the Rai at the end of May. The municipality gave 6.5 tons, but it expected that the congress would cost a small million euros towards the local economy (especially the catering industry) and KLM.

More numbers that occasionally amaze: EZ has to issue 8, 200 'innovation vouchers' for this year, 6, 200 for the public sector and 2, 000 for the private sector. There are small vouchers of 2, 500 euros each, and large vouchers of 7, 500 euros (of which 2, 500 own contribution). An entrepreneur gets money when he outsources a 'knowledge question' for the renewal of a product, process or service. The private innovation vouchers can be used by private knowledge suppliers, such as an engineering firm. The public vouchers can be spent at knowledge institutions such as universities and colleges.

Here too, it is soon about 30 million euros.

Does all that EZ money end up well? A revealing answer offered the report on innovation and subsidy from the nineteen official working groups that had to make austerity proposals to the cabinet. 'Cuts on innovation policy and applied research of 20 percent are probably not without consequences for productivity and prosperity. However, due to the lack of robust empirical material, this can not be quantified. '

In short, we do not know.

But we do know that 30 percent of the issued innovation vouchers are not collected. Companies have paid themselves to this almost threshold-free scheme - they were available at the 'NL Agency' counter on 23 February - but many of them failed to spend the subsidy. Parties that have provided a service or knowledge can only redeem the vouchers afterwards.

Part of the cause lies with the 'intermediaries', the subsidy consultants, says Frank Kramer, 'knowledge broker' at the Syntens innovation network in Nieuwegein. "But I have to watch what I say here. It is a very nice arrangement, but we have to prevent games. '

The advisers warn their clients beforehand that a regulation 'loses', because the innovation voucher is 'whoever comes first and does not need to submit a plan in advance'. That does not have to mean bad faith, but can also be a Pavlov reaction. Later the intention can not be fulfilled and that is the reason that many Innovation vouchers are not redeemed.

The private vouchers were gone within three days, the public vouchers within a week or eight, according to Kramer. He says that in three days the proposals can not be properly assessed: "The processing takes two months in total. Within the Syntens network we have over 250 advisers. We call each applicant to find out his intentions. ' Checking afterwards does not take place. Kramer: 'This is a high-trust product, and that is to keep it accessible. If there are crazy things or false designs in between, we get it out quickly, you know. "

An entire industry has arisen around obtaining subsidies, embodied by the Dutch Association of Advisors on Subsidies (NVAS) with rules of conduct and a dispute settlement. You can conclude a model contract with such advisers. They are often virtually risk-free to hire. As Jaco van Daalen of Van Daalen & Partners in Voorhout is a small consultancy with three people, specialized in technology and innovation. He works, like many of his colleagues on a no cure no pay basis: 15 percent commission on the subsidy amount, with a one-off payment of 450 euros for the preparations and the grant proposal. They provide the subsidy for about 40 to 50 customers per year and the subsidy amounts granted range from 5000 to 250, 000 euros.

Van Daalen offers a 'subsidy check' on his website to make 'a choice from the 1, 300 schemes'. Only Van Daalen sees the result of the check, and with that he can approach customers. But how can you know all those 1, 300 schemes? 'Only a limited number is applicable, at most 30 rolls out. And based on our experience, we pick out the few that really matter. '

The WBSO scheme often comes to the fore. This tax scheme, the Promotion of Investigation and Development Act, is by far the most important. It reduces labor costs for research and development work. For example, the wage tax to be deducted can be significantly reduced, the self-employed deduction for self-employed people can be increased, and there is an additional deduction of the wage tax for starting entrepreneurs. An application can be submitted three times a year via Senterloket.nl. The desk will issue an 'S & O'statement after a review.

Almost 13, 000 applicants make use of the WBSO every year. The disadvantage is the uncertainty about the handling that must result in the 'R & D statement'. The advantage is that the number of petitioners is so great that recognition can not be a matter of a millimeter. There is some work involved: you have to keep an R & D administration, of course according to the numbers in the application. You can easily communicate the realized R & D hours to NL Agency via the internet.

This scheme is easy to combine with the Innovation Box, formerly the Patent Box: a low rate (5%) corporation tax for profit from innovative activities. Losses on innovative activities are deductible at the normal rate of 25.5 percent. So first you get money to innovate, and thanks to the R & D statement, the government will not fully communicate in the profit you achieve with any innovation: that is a double advantage.

The failure percentage of the proposals made with his help is called Van Daalen 'virtually nil'. 'I screen well in advance. I only do promising projects. Finally, I have nine years of experience in it. '

Van Daalen estimates that at least 75 percent of Dutch innovation subsidies find their way through advisors. It has become an industry, he agrees. He denies that subsidies are mainly distributed on the basis of the cleverness and skill of those advisers. "It's all pretty businesslike. Granters and advisers know well what they have to each other. It is a form of optimization. "

A much-heard complaint is the poor control afterwards. Van Daalen: "That's not too bad. I think that 75 percent of our clients in 2009 had control of the project and administration of SenterNovem and now the successor NL Agency. For higher amounts, starting from around € 25, 000, an audit certificate is required. '

But we do not know anything about success and failure percentages, because subsidy is often kept secret. Van Daalen: 'Of course a minority of the innovations succeeds. Let it be 10 or 20 percent, so eight to nine out of ten times it fails. But the successes make that up well. "

Agentschap NL will improve information for entrepreneurs. Partner Syntens is preparing the introduction of a direct telephone number for entrepreneurs looking for help. Does that mean faster money? Knowledge broker Frank Kramer of Syntens: 'It's about better plans. You can always get money, but just take a good plan and do it well. You have to be focused on that as an entrepreneur. We help with that. '

Can you, as an entrepreneur, not stay away from the subsidy circus and simply draw your own plan? Van Daalen: 'I would always try. It is very simple: innovation entails a much higher business risk than the current business. The government wants to share that risk and that is beneficial. '

Way from Amsterdam?

It may be worthwhile thinking specifically outside of Amsterdam, if only because the capital does not have the creative exclusive right. Around the Universities of Twente, Eindhoven and Groningen, lively clusters of innovative companies emerge. Housing is cheaper, and there are also many regional and provincial subsidy pots. For example, Brabant, Limburg, Overijssel, Gelderland and Northern Netherlands have well-filled investment funds.

Who wants to put the toes in the water just outside Amsterdam, can start in Flevoland. The province pays a lot of attention to ICT, for example in cooperation with Almere. The city has become somewhat more cautious after a tap on the fingers of the local Court of Auditors due to the waste of ICT subsidies, but there is still money.

If you want to put on a really big pair of pants, the best thing to think of is something that can be claimed on the Economic Structure Enhancement Fund (FES). More than 1.7 billion euros were available in 2009. Of this, € 525 million went to knowledge and innovation, for the most part distributed through the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.