Minister Micky Adriaansens. Beeld: Rijksoverheid
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A vote in the Dutch House of Representatives yesterday resulted in an even more uncertain future for the National Growth Fund. Innovative projects and large companies are on hold now that the 20 billion euro fund, of which 7.4 billion has yet to be distributed, has been put on pause. Two motions by D66 for continuation and against cuts were rejected. Employer organizations warn of lagging technological development in the Netherlands and Europe. Companies crave clarity on the availability of crucial billions for innovation.

Why this is important:

Yesterday, the House of Representatives rejected two motions to guarantee the future of the National Growth Fund. This makes the future of the fund uncertain; it is now mainly in the hands of the forming parties.

Vote in the House of Representatives

The debate surrounding the National Growth Fund led to a crucial vote in the House of Representatives. Two motions, introduced by D66 with support from GroenLinks-PvdA, argued in favor of continuing the fund. The motions were aimed at opposing cuts to innovation and avoiding the postponement of new grant applications.

A majority of the House (including the forming parties) voted against it. “Unfortunately, the fourth round of the National Growth Fund does go on pause for now,” said outgoing Minister Micky Adriaansens. “For all the companies that put a lot of time and effort into developing a proposal, this is a disappointment.”

The rejection of these motions by a majority of the House of Representatives means that the fund, with €7.4 billion left to give away, will not be opened to new applications. This decision directly affects companies and projects that depend on this funding.

The impact on innovative projects

The rejection of the motions has a direct impact on current and future projects. Large companies such as KPN, chip manufacturer NXP, and Airbus, which together with other organizations emphasized the need for the fund in a letter, are in uncertainty. The big question is, whether the delay in the ability to submit grant applications does not mean a postponement.

The concern is that halting the National Growth Fund, even temporarily, will jeopardize the innovation power of the Netherlands. An example of this is the Einstein Telescope, a project being developed with support from the fund that may now be delayed.

Political priorities and the formation process

A major reason for the current impasse is the ongoing formation. Femke Zeedijk of NSC stressed the importance of investing in the future of the Netherlands but indicated that the formation process should determine priorities and timelines. According to her, it is not appropriate “at this stage to make commitments to only the Growth Fund.”

This view reflects politicians’ desire to have a comprehensive plan for economic growth and innovation, not wanting to pre-empt the formation process by making decisions on the Growth Fund now. This leaves the decision on the continued existence of the fund in the hands of the future coalition.

Reactions from the business community

The vote and uncertainty about the Growth Fund have led to disappointed reactions from the business community. Employers’ organizations VNO-NCW and MKB Nederland speak of a “hard blow” and point to the need for investments in technology to remain competitive.

These organizations stress that the Netherlands and Europe are already lagging behind in technological development and that the billions from the Growth Fund are crucial to catch up. The current political decision is thus seen as a step backward for Dutch innovation strength.

What is the National Growth Fund?

The National Growth Fund, established with an initial capital of 20 billion euros, is designed to support innovations in various sectors, such as the development of quantum computers and circular solar panels. However, the fund has also provided funding for less obvious projects, such as making a car tunnel in Zeeland toll-free.
The flexible use of the fund has led to discussion about its true objectives and effectiveness. The issue of how to spend the remaining funds will be a major focus of upcoming debates, both inside and outside politics.

Future prospects

With the current decision by the House of Representatives to put the National Growth Fund on pause, the future of many innovative projects hangs in the air. Companies and organizations continue to push for clarity as politicians seek the balance between investing in innovation and guarding financial discipline during the formation process.

The final decision on the Growth Fund will have far-reaching consequences for the Dutch economy and its position in the field of innovation. It is now up to the forming parties to determine what role the fund will play in the future of the Netherlands.