Almost four years of TTT: what can we harvest now?

Almost four years of TTT: what can we harvest now?

In 2020 we started TTT Circular Technology and Smart Industry. Since then, we have been able to help many founders and inventors turn their scientific ideas into startups that make an impact – or undoubtedly will do so. We made this possible by providing financing and support at the right time. As the five-year milestone approaches and thus the end of this program, it is time to see what we can harvest. We spoke with Anne de Jong from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate and Heidi van Hooff and Fenrir van Koert from RVO.

This article was published earlier in the TTT Magazine #6.

Let’s rewind the tape. Because before the TTT scheme was created, there was the valorization program. This revealed a number of bottlenecks, such as the fact that knowledge transfer was largely limited to companies in the region and there was little valorization cooperation at national level between the individual knowledge institutions. But for real impact, you need to ensure a good ‘valorization climate’ at national level. That’s where the TTT scheme comes into play.

Government as investor

“The scheme has two goals,” explains De Jong. “First of all, we want to promote collaboration between different knowledge institutions, and secondly, we want to provide knowledge startups with starting capital. By co-financing as a government in the early phase of capital-intensive knowledge startups, we remove the risks for venture investors to also step in. Through the arrangement we also bring the worlds of knowledge institutions and venture investors closer together. A nice side effect of this is that investors are now more likely to join knowledge institutions and think about ‘building’ a good startup. Investors pay attention to different aspects than knowledge institutions. This provides a better picture of what startups need in the construction phase and makes them more ‘investment ready’ when they are founded.”

That is not the only positive effect we can already reap thanks to the scheme. Collaboration between knowledge institutions is also becoming increasingly stronger. “With the scheme, we have cast the knowledge institutions into a mold and, as it were, forced them to work together,” says De Jong. “That apparently works after all. Not overnight – that trust had to grow. And this should lead to knowledge institutions becoming increasingly better at finding each other on different themes, resulting in stronger startups based on knowledge from different knowledge institutions. I also see that knowledge institutions are paying more and more attention to valorization. We want to move towards a situation in which this knowledge exchange is self-evident. Then the crossovers between knowledge institutions are unlimited.”


Van Koert also sees the benefits of the scheme. Van Koert: “After almost 4 years, the programs are running smoothly. We see that the regional consortia are now working together nationally on the various themes. As a result, ideas are no longer the same in different places, but crossovers are created that combine the best of the parties into a good business case. The scheme does not specifically focus on creating new unicorns. That’s nice if it works, but that’s not something you can decide in advance. The scheme makes it possible for startups to continue to grow through funds that step in. The role of RVO is to ensure that the valorization process runs smoothly. Do the cases meet the conditions of the scheme? How are the initiatives found? Are the initiatives sufficiently supported to achieve an investable proposition? And how many investments do the funds make? Are they investing in startups at the right stage? Ultimately, you hope that a number of those spin-offs will develop into the new ASML.”

Van Hooff refers to the results of the interim evaluation for the successes. “This shows that TTT achieves its objectives and offers value in several aspects. Getting knowledge off the shelf is nice, but contributing to the prosperity of the Netherlands is what we ultimately want. This can be done by focusing on valorization. TTT is a good instrument for doing what it is supposed to do. Because not only education and research are core tasks of the university, but so is valorization.”

A view on the future

De Jong also sees the challenge for the future there: “Ultimately, we want valorization to be at the same level as education and research. Knowledge institutions and universities in particular must become as excellent at knowledge transfer as they are at education and research. TTT is a great start in this regard. For example, part of the proposal for the National Growth Fund application Delta Plan Valorization is based on TTT. Moreover, we intend to extend the TTT scheme for five years, so that when a budget becomes available again we can finance even more valorization efforts and startups.” And those valorization efforts and startups that have already been funded by TTT? We will – hopefully – reap the first fruits of this in 10 to 15 years.


How do those four years of support translate into figures? We have done an interim evaluation for TTT Circular Technology with a positive outcome. With a relatively modest total budget of €8 million, we have managed to take our cases to a point where they are winning awards and grants and attracting further third-party investment totaling more than €90 million. The multiplier effect is remarkable and underlines the relevance of our program: the validation and development we enable builds confidence among the teams and prepares them to scale even further.


Smart Industry

Nico Nijenhuis


Circular Technology

Maurits Burgering



Esther Rodijk


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