Local entrepreneurship policies in the Netherlands. The potential role of local entrepreneurship policy in the Dutch economy

Master thesis research by Esther Kersbergen

In July 2016 Esther Kersbergen graduated from the Tilburg School of Economics and Management at Tilburg University. She followed the MSc Strategic Management and wrote her master thesis in the area of local entrepreneurship policies in the Netherlands.

In the previous decades, globalization forced western countries to shift to a knowledge-driven economy. In this new economy, entrepreneurs have become more important because of their drive to innovate and their force to stimulate competition inside the economy. A higher level of entrepreneurial activity is also positively linked to economic growth at a local, regional and national level. Therefore, it has attracted the attention of local, regional and national policy makers who have started to implement policies in order to attract more entrepreneurs, called ‘entrepreneurship policies’. A lot of the theory on entrepreneurship policy focuses on national policy, creating a gap in the knowledge about local entrepreneurship policy. That is interesting since scholars expect local policy to be of more importance in the new entrepreneurial economy. Therefore, the purpose of this thesis to contribute to the theory of local entrepreneurship policy by investigating the potential role of local entrepreneurship policy in the Netherlands.

First, literature has been used to identify the possibilities national governments have to attract entrepreneurs, which resulted in a framework for national entrepreneurship policy. After that, it has been discussed to which extent this framework is also relevant for local entrepreneurship policy. Finally, six possible areas have been found for local entrepreneurship policy: the promotion of entrepreneurship as a career option, the use of education, the attractiveness of the environment for entrepreneurs by adjusting rules and procedures, financial support, non-financial support, and governments can focus on certain target groups, sectors or regions with a specific policy.

To test this in practice, civil servants from 10 Dutch cities were interviewed about how they use policies in order to attract entrepreneurs. The results show that the municipalities were mainly active in adjusting rules and procedures in favour of entrepreneurs, in providing non-financial business support and in connecting the local labour market with local education to attract entrepreneurs. Besides that, they also put a lot of attention to the acquisition of existing firms from outside the city and to account management of existing firms inside the city. Overall it is concluded that local governments can mainly contribute through their role as link between local business and local education. In that role they can enhance local clusters, improve the connection between education and the labour market and use local role models to stimulate and promote entrepreneurship. 

Since cities currently do not pay a lot of attention to the promotion of entrepreneurship, one of the managerial recommendations for local policy makers is to promote and stimulate entrepreneurship, especially trough education. That is, seeing entrepreneurship as a credible career option is often the first step in setting up a new business. Scholars interested in the area of entrepreneur ship policy are recommended to extent the research on local entrepreneurship policy. For example, a more in depth research in all areas of the national frameworks on the local effect of those areas