Stimulating the growth of Brainport and at the same time investing in a vital living environment. This is how Brainport Rabobank translates the well-known Rabobank mission ‘Growing a better world together’ into its own municipality and region. “This means ensuring that facilities are and / or remain at the proper level, so that they keep pace with the growth of the region. That balance is important, which is why we are committed to both”, explains Gerard Zwartkruis, Director of Business at Brainport Rabobank.
Rabobank wants to drive innovation with new products, investments and collaborations
“Growth is also realised thanks to start-ups and scale-ups. That is why we invest in it to create and stimulate employment”, says Gerard Zwartkruis. “A good living environment ensures that well-trained people – MBOs [senior secondary vocational education], HBOs [higher professional education]and academics – remain in the region or that we attract such ‘golden hands and golden heads’.” Last June, Brainport Rabobank announced plans to invest 1 billion Euros in companies in the region. “With equity, borrowed capital, combining parties or accumulating financing, aimed at the manufacturing industry, agrifood, high-tech and medical technology. Start-ups and scale-ups are an important part of this”, explains Zwartkruis. “In addition, the focus is on the ecosystem, the supply system, on area development and mergers and acquisitions. And living satisfaction can also be improved”.
An important condition for financial support is that it concerns disruptive innovation in the areas of care, facilities, IT and mobility, which leads to an improvement of the living environment. “It has to be innovative. The Netherlands and the region must accelerate innovation in the field of climate problems, the housing shortage and circularity. “We want to be the Brainport banker.” After the first nine months, nearly 10 percent of the 1 billion has been issued, according to a satisfied Zwartkruis. “We will spend three years on it, setting up and organising initially takes a lot of time. The fact that we stick our neck out like this has created some turmoil at home and abroad. ”
Because the chain plays an important role in an ecosystem, the Brainport Rabobank also focuses on chain financing. “If for some reason an OEM [Original Equipment Manufacturer] temporarily removes his foot from the accelerator, suppliers may run into problems because they are left with extra stocks that are specifically made for that end product”, says Zwartkruis. “We look at which financing solutions are possible so that the companies involved have enough resources to continue operating. Because they still need to retain people and invest in innovation”.
The latter is of course risky, also for Rabobank itself. “High-tech is high risk, and it will remain that way. In the manufacturing industry you also have to have staying power, it takes time to make something new – more than, for example, in IT or service provision”, says Zwartkruis. “Nevertheless, two years ago we decided to build in a little more risk with a new product: the postponed innovation loan. If we believe in an innovative proposition, we issue a seven-year loan without any collateral, with a grace period of two years (first two years interest-only, the recipient only pays interest, ed.). However, at a higher interest rate because of the higher risk and a maximum of 150,000 euros per case. And, not unimportant, this support from Rabobank can also open doors elsewhere for innovative companies”.
Rabobank Eindhoven recently took a number of steps that should also stimulate high-tech, agri-food and medical technology outside Brainport. The plans for our own Brainport Venture Fund were exchanged for participation in the second Innovation Industries Fund. This fund contains 175 million Euros, of which Brainport Rabobank has “contributed a substantial amount”. “We jump on a moving train, where knowledge about medical technology, high-tech and the like is already available. That way we can accelerate”, explains Zwartkruis. Besides Rabobank, the pension funds of the metal sector PME and PMT are the main investors in the fund. Other capital providers are the technical universities, including TU / e. [Eindhoven University of Technology]
In addition, the bank appointed start-up/scale-up bankers in Delft, Enschede, Eindhoven and Amsterdam to stimulate innovations and acquisitions with risk capital and innovation loans.
Who would have thought that the developments surrounding the coronavirus would happen so quickly and have such an impact on our economy and the various sectors? Unfortunately, the corona crisis is also going to hit the industry hard, including almost all subsectors, according to Zwartkruis. ‘Companies in the industry have problems selling their products or can no longer obtain parts or semimanufactures. Moreover, companies may face production capacity problems due to cases of contamination or precautionary measures. In all cases, this means that companies can no longer deliver 100 percent, which has a direct effect on turnover.’ Rabobank sees the first problems at maintenance and repair companies, companies in the means of transport industry, mechanical engineering and food processing companies that supply the hospitality industry.
‘Rabobank, together with the government and other banks, has already rolled out a package of measures to support businesses in these difficult times. We would like to contribute to the financial health of the business community.’