Northern Knowledge celebrates its anniversary with big strides

A hub of knowledge and entrepreneurship in the region, an open innovation platform to meet today's challenges, the key player between education, government, entrepreneurship and society. Northern Knowledge is all of this. And it’s achieving ever more recognition, just a year after it was founded.

Annemieke Galema and Rob Verhofstad (photo: Pepijn van den Broeke)

Director Annemieke Galema is increasingly aware of this. Northern Knowledge is gaining in fame and strength. “That’s mainly because of the work we do, not because we have to tell everyone about our mission. What is that work, then? Working together. That is the key. We see the challenges and contribute to the solution. Above all, by bringing together knowledge and entrepreneurship”.

From the office of university administrator Rob Verhofstad at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, the view over the city of Groningen and the surrounding Ommelanden is magnificent. A view of Northern Knowledge’s immediate field of work. “We want to offer added value to the Northern Netherlands to start with. To put it very bluntly: the environment is full of questions, problems, challenges”.

More than just an office

Think of the shortage of technical staff, of the energy transition, of the nitrogen problem, perhaps. “It’s very concrete what we do”, says Verhofstad. “There are a lot of clever heads in the North who can find answers to all kinds of questions. Sometimes alone, often together with other clever people or entrepreneurs who experience these issues in person. That’s what we’re for. I sometimes imagine myself to be a key player in a football match. We see the challenges and we know where to find the knowledge so that we can find the best solution together. It could be at the University of Groningen, at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, or a combination of both.”

“This is our strength, that we can draw on all that knowledge and know what we can find where. The knowledge institutions function as true partners for entrepreneurs, government and society. This strength can be further enhanced when the universities of applied sciences Stenden and Van Hall Larenstein soon become our partners, so that Northern Knowledge becomes ever more of an overarching Northern concept. And more than just an office where you call round with your entrepreneurial questions.”

Solar Challenge

“It’s actually a network,” says Annemieke Galema. “We connect knowledge, entrepreneurship, government and society.” This has advantages on all sides. Challenges in the region gain access to knowledge and research. And vice versa, students and PhD students are plunging into these challenges and also benefit from them. Verhofstad: “We want to train students to become professionals who contribute to society. We are working directly on this through Northern Knowledge.”

Every two weeks, representatives of the University of Groningen, the UMCG and the universities of applied sciences meet; to discuss where opportunities lie, where there are challenges and how the region – and thus the rest of the country – can be taken forward. Verhofstad: “The nice thing is that we are being found much more easily. Not only just by social parties who have questions, but also by the knowledge institutions, who have good ideas.”

Specifically: The team from Groningen that participated in the World Solar Challenge, a race for solar-powered cars in Australia. Which became fourth almost out of nowhere. Annemieke Galema: “That’s a great example. Of course, that starts with the inventors and go-getters. Behind the scenes, Northern Knowledge has certainly contributed. By supporting the inventors in their ambition, by allowing universities and colleges to work together on knowledge and education and by also finding good partners from the business world. That’s what we do well, the behind the scenes stuff. We don’t have to be in the spotlights, as long as there are results.”


One year Northern Knowledge

Northern Knowledge was founded in 2018 as a logical continuation of the much earlier established cooperation between the knowledge institutions in Groningen, namely the University of Groningen, the Hanze University of Applied Sciences and the University Medical Centre. The need for a broader framework which external partners can easily join has also been around for some time. What Northern Knowledge did was to allow the valorisation and entrepreneurship departments of the knowledge institutions to work together as a foundation, based on the idea that the two are inextricably linked. Northern Knowledge not only answers questions from the region, but also actively searches for issues that require a solution.