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Omani SME support organisations successfully conclude entrepreneurship ecosystem tour to the Netherlands
Muscat, 30 October 2018

With the aim of promoting local and international collaboration and engagement in the area of SME and entrepreneurship support, of further enriching the support extended to Omani SMEs, and of opening business development channels with their counterparts outside the Sultanate of Oman, a select group of SME support organisations from the Sultanate have just concluded a very successful tour to the Netherlands to experience the Dutch startup ecosystem.

The Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship (ECE), Embassy of the Netherlands in Muscat and Zubair Small Enterprises Centre (Zubair SEC) built on their fruitful relationship by organising a tour of the start-up ecosystem in the Netherlands. Over four days, representatives of start-up and SME support organisations in Oman participated in a programme that aimed to “Inspire Engage and Equip” participants and to encourage them to “Communicate” the learnings back to their colleagues and counterparts in the Sultanate as well as to start-ups and SMEs. The Omani group met and engaged with key players in the Dutch SME ecosystem across Rotterdam, Delft, The Hague and Amsterdam.

Speaking of their involvement, H.E. Laetitia van Asch, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Muscat said: “The Embassy was delighted to be able to play a role in bringing together representatives from leading SME support organisations in both countries. It is through such dialogue that the already good relationship between our two countries can be strengthened and expanded, particularly in the economic field. Our partners in this endeavour, the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship and Zubair SEC were hugely generous with their time and efforts to make the visit a success and the participants’ contributions throughout demonstrated enormous commitment, interest and expertise which we are confident will continue to benefit entrepreneurs in the Sultanate.”

The programme was designed to maximise the value that could be shared and brought back to the Sultanate. Every day was rich with site visits and meetings with Dutch support organisations and start-up owners. In four days we managed to visit four key centres of entrepreneurships: Rotterdam, Delft, The Hague, and Amsterdam and met with key players in the Dutch ecosystem. In addition to the organisers, Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship, a recognised global leader in the field, we visited Blue City, RDM Rotterdam, RDM Makerspace, PortXL, Yes!Delft, B.Amsterdam, in addition to the Dutch Enterprise Agency, an arm of government which plays a key role in promoting and supporting SMEs nationally and internationally. We also had good daily group engagement sessions to reflect on what we had seen and heard and to discuss how best to utilise those insights and knowledge to improve the services extended to start-ups and SMEs back in the Sultanate, said Lina Hussein, Head of Communications & Social Impact at Zubair SEC. She added, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Embassy of the Netherlands for their outstanding efforts in making this programme a success. I’d also like to thank the team of Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship for their thorough planning and execution of an enriching programme that brought in key Dutch stakeholders to provide us with an excellent first-hand experience and knowledge-sharing opportunity”.

The programme echoed well amongst the participating ten SME-support organisations, who expressed their appreciation of the achieved value and realized benefit.

Speaking of the background to the tour, ECE’s Director, Martin Luxemburg, said:

“This tour illustrates the great relationship that exists between Oman and the Netherlands. Having worked with the Dutch Embassy in Muscat and Zubair SEC for the last two years, we were happy to partner with them in organising this comprehensive programme. We sought to give insights into the Dutch SME support ecosystem and to learn from our Omani counterparts regarding their approach and practices”

Ranking second in the Global Innovation Index, the Netherlands is famed for the high level of support it extends to entrepreneurs through education and practical on-the-ground initiatives. In part the success of the Dutch ecosystem stems from the high level of collaboration and willingness to learn and develop. It is these elements that were at the core of the tour – seen as an opportunity to share insights that could benefit both ecosystems, and to develop new ideas to support start-ups and SMEs in the Sultanate.

AlMutajaredah AlMandhari, Director of Mentorship & Training Department at The Public Authority for SMEs Development (Riyada) said: “This visit to the Netherlands helped us better understand how the Dutch start-up ecosystem works. A most valuable takeaway from the programme has been learning more about how to enhance public-private partnerships, especially on the educational level in supporting entrepreneurs. There is much to take back home, but of course we will need to tweak the models to fit better the Omani environment”.

Khaula Al Harthy, Executive Director of Injaz Oman commented saying: “We need to create a comprehensive ecosystem that encourages and nourishes innovation and through which new projects can arise and have a positive impact on the national Omani economy”.

Mulkie Al Hashmi, Director of Media & Marketing, National Business Centre reflected on the programme saying: “First I would like to thank the organisers of this programme; it has indeed been a unique experience, allowing us to gain firsthand knowledge about the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Netherlands. We have learned a lot and visited a number of start-up and entrepreneur support organisations and listened closely to their stories and experiences; we have also witnessed the collaborative approach between those organisations and between entrepreneurs across the ecosystem. I look forward to transferring this knowledge and this collaborative approach back to the Sultanate”.

Abdullah Al Jufaili, General Manager of Sharakah, said: “This ecosystem tour has been very special, first because it hosted a number of entrepreneurship support organisations from the Sultanate and the Netherlands which provided an excellent opportunity to exchange knowledge and expertise and discuss better ways to serve and support start-ups and SMEs. On the other hand, we noticed a lot of similarities between the ecosystems in both countries; they might have moved much further ahead in this regard, but we could still identify many similar services that we both try to offer. The Dutch ecosystem has around 400 support organisations and we sensed the collaboration and comprehensiveness in their offerings and efforts. More than anything else, I would like us to adopt this collaborative approach further in the Sultanate and to encourage more joint work between the Omani support organisations. We also noticed how innovation is a core component across the whole Dutch ecosystem and extended support services and we aim to do more in this regard and achieve more competitiveness locally, regionally and internationally in the near future”.

After an inspirational programme and discussions surrounding various aspects of innovation and entrepreneurship development, delegates from Oman left with a keen desire to implement their learnings and work towards further potential collaboration with the Netherlands.

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