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13 January 2014

Dutch Discover Entrepreneurial Spirit 

In 2005, Ireland, then in full Celtic Tiger mode, was ranked the most entrepreneurial out of 15 EU member states; the Netherlands was ninth place. Seven years, a global financial crisis and a recession later, their positions had reversed. What happened?

According to academics at a specialist entrepreneurship unit backed by Dublin City University, Ireland has struggled as a result of the effective collapse of its banking system in 2008-09. But perhaps more telling is how the Netherlands improved its fortunes.

The Dutch government made a concerted effort to encourage its citizens to start more businesses. It decreased burdensome regulations, improved financing options for small businesses and devoted more funding to research and development. It also created centers for education about entrepreneurship in a half-dozen universities around the country.

According to the Irish report, Dutch adults are more than twice as likely to start a new business than their Irish counterparts, even though Ireland is rated as being easier to start a business than the Netherlands.

The Netherlands is not the only European country to defy popular assumptions about the continent’s supposed lack of innovative spirit. Last year’s Global Innovation Index compiled by the World Intellectual Property Organization listed seven European countries in its global top 10, including all the top four. The US trailed behind in fifth place and Hong Kong in seventh place.

The Netherlands was ranked in fourth place, behind Switzerland, Sweden and the UK. Ireland might be back in tenth place, but it’s still among the world’s leaders for innovation and entrepreneurship.