COM³ pilots: fostering data driven regional development in the province of Drenthe

09 July 2020 - Published by P. Khodabakhsh
What exactly does ‘data driven regional development’ mean? For the Province of Drenthe this means that the data science department will support other departments, partner organizations and local SMEs by collecting and providing data solutions. COM³ helps to make this approach a reality as it enables the data science team to create a regional database for the province’s business support programme.

The data science team received the question from the economics department if it would be able to more clearly define what companies are doing within the digitalisation agenda. Of course, some knowledge exists already with the registration of a company with the chamber of commerce in the Netherlands. Companies are required to fill in an activity based on a list of categories provided by the chamber of commerce. Due to this only being required at the first registry, the data is most likely never updated afterwards. However, the company activities may change during its existence or the company expands and adds a different activity. Such changes are therefore unknown to the regional governments. With the use of web scraping techniques, however, it will be able to use the information available on the websites of the SMEs to more accurately specify what these activities are.

Enabling the business support programme to better respond to SMEs’ needs

For the regional business support programme IBDO, the data science team in the province of Drenthe is building a regional database with all available data regarding SMEs in the province. “By creating this database, we can more clearly specify in which stage of their company life cycle companies are. With this knowledge we enable our business support programme to better react to the needs of SMEs in Drenthe. It will also become easier to reach out to companies as we have more knowledge as to what exactly the SMEs are doing”, says Niels Annema, COM³ project manager in the province of Drenthe.

Another example for the use of data is a hackathon organized in January 2020. This was the first major test for the regional database and the first time the project team actually got to work with registries of different subsidies and chamber of commerce data.

Hackathon to test connected datasets

The hackathon started out by looking at the different data sets and exploring how they would be able to link them together. The datasets that were available consisted of subsidy, patent and chamber of commerce data. After a while, the teams managed to connect the datasets and retrieved valuable information from it. For example, one team created a heatmap of start-ups in Drenthe. Another team used statistics and plotted the areas in which innovation was most likely to happen.

The hackathon proved to be a valuable event as it became clear to all participants that the connected data was useful for answering much of the research questions. With only a small portion of the possible data, we were able to achieve a lot of usefull outputs.

There is the need for the business landscape to work together more effectively and intensively. This cooperation ensures that SMEs can grow, innovate and cooperate. This would also help the education system and labour market to be more in sync. A lot of information about SMEs is already known. The major downside however is that this information is not readily available and is quite fragmented. This is why the Province of Drenthe is creating a regional database in order to increase the visibility and searchability of local businesses. A regional database would not only be beneficial to SMEs, but also to for researchers and policy makers.