Navigating regional partnerships & unlocking new opportunities through Regio Deal Funding

River, bridge and roundabout seen from the air

In a major step forward for collaborative research, Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) has secured funding for two "Regio Deal" projects through its involvement in the Convergence Alliance's Resilient Delta Initiative. But what exactly are Regio Deals, and what sets them apart from typical research funding schemes? Nicolette Stehouwer-den Hollander, Senior Business Developer, and Immanuel Nijssen, Innovation & Partnership Manager share their experiences navigating this unique funding landscape and what it means for EUR’s research in the future.

Understanding Regio Deals – collaboration is at the core

"Regio Deals are distinct from typical research funding schemes," explains Nicolette. "Here, the focus is on joint efforts between the central government and regions to improve quality of life, living and working in municipalities. This means knowledge institutions like EUR collaborate with various regional partners to achieve shared goals." According to Immanuel, “strong regional connections and engagement, which we at EUR have put more focus on over the past year and a half, are crucial. We’ve involved our scientists in knowledge sessions with government officials, participated in conferences, actively engaged in various triple helix forums, and frequently conveyed and explained how EUR's Convergence Alliance aligns with regional priorities. We actively participate in various regional and national discussions. While individual researchers or faculties were active in these discussions, EUR, as an organization, is taking a more proactive approach now. This is relevant for the external stakeholders who wish to engage with EUR."

Immanuel elaborates on the origin and selection process: "These initiatives are originated by the regions themselves, encompassing provinces, municipalities, and knowledge institutions. Proposals undergo a layered evaluation and approval process, involving regional authorities, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, and ultimately, the cabinet."

The role of EUR research in the Regio Deals

In the Smart Delta Drechtsteden Regio Deal, Resilient Delta will play a significant role by contributing through the SPRING research consortium and the T-Roffa Tree Lab. SPRING collaborates closely with public authorities, companies, citizens, and various stakeholders, to conduct research aimed to enhance lifestyles, improve the living environment, and increase the life expectancy of residents. They conduct long-term research with, for and by residents and other local stakeholders. The T-Roffa Tree Lab uses a mobile forest to investigate how cities can be developed together with citizens and make cities climate-resilient through the placement of greenery.

In the Waterweg Regio Deal, Resilient Delta will focus its research on a variety of topics including: enhancing livability, promoting equal opportunities, fostering overall prosperity, implementing neighborhood-level interventions, encouraging citizen participation, and more. This research aims to explore, analyze, and develop strategies that positively impact these areas.

Multiple advantages of Regio Deals

There are many advantages for educational institutions and researchers to participate in Regio Deals. According to Immanuel there are several specific benefits, namely:

  • Regional focus: Unlike traditional research funding, Regio Deals address specific regional challenges and opportunities. This allows EUR's projects to directly tackle the needs of the region, promoting targeted and impactful developments.
  • Collaboration hub: The framework encourages cross-sectoral collaboration between various stakeholders - like local and regional governments, knowledge institutions and businesses - fostering comprehensive and transdisciplinary solutions.
  • Government backing: Regio Deals enjoy government support, not just financially, but also in terms of commitment to their success. This enhances project credibility and sustainability, potentially attracting further funding and collaborations.
  • Holistic approach: These projects take a holistic approach, considering not only economic factors but also social and environmental aspects.
  • Visibility and recognition: Success in securing Regio Deals demonstrates that EUR's initiatives align with regional priorities, increasing project visibility and recognition, potentially attracting additional funding from other sources in the future.
  • Regional impact: Ultimately, these deals aim to make a significant positive impact on the lives of all people in the region, contributing to EUR's broader impact agenda.

Nicolette highlights other merits: "one key benefit is that local governments, primarily municipalities, take the lead in writing proposals. Hence, the administrative burden of writing the full proposal lies not on the researcher, but on the municipality. Furthermore, the central government doubles the contributions from regional partners, making these projects financially attractive."

Challenges & opportunities

"Qualifying for Regio Deal funding required demonstrating that we possess the relevant expertise to contribute to the specific goals of each deal, along with a commitment to co-financing (in kind) the projects," explains Nicolette. In the Drechtsteden-Gorinchem region the number of knowledge institutions is limited in the area. Nicolette’s role included actively showcasing to the region the benefit of actively collaborating with research institutions. She highlighted how issues arising from society can be tackled in a targeted manner, and results can be tested and implemented immediately. She adds, “ultimately, this was seen and appreciated by the leading teams of both Regio Deals, thus we were valued as active partners.”

She further details the challenges encountered, "The approaches differed significantly between the two regions. In the Drechtsteden-Gorinchem region, collaborating with up to 70 external partners for proposal submission was demanding. Conversely, while EUR was involved early on in the Waterweg gemeenten region, official partnership confirmation only came in September/October due to extensive municipal alignment processes."

Despite these challenges, the potential benefits of Regio Deal funding are significant. As Immanuel points out, "The Regio Deal funding is expected to significantly benefit EUR/Convergence in various aspects. The influx of these resources will provide the Resilient Delta Initiative with increased opportunities to address regional challenges, fostering even more impactful (new) projects. The collaborative nature of the Regio Deals is likely to further strengthen our partnerships with our external stakeholders, fostering collaboration and knowledge transfer and exchange. Successful involvement will broaden our Convergence and EUR network, enhancing visibility and capturing increased interest from regional and national stakeholders. This, ideally, would result in additional resources from the second and third funding streams."

What’s next?

The Regio Deals represent a significant opportunity for EUR to contribute to solving complex societal challenges at the regional level, and there are still opportunities for EUR researchers to get involved. Nicolette adds, "If you have good ideas for projects that could fit for the upcoming 6th tranche, contact me and we can discuss it! There are more funding opportunities then just Horizon and NWO. And EUR is actively working on developing those funding opportunities for our researchers."

More information

For further information or inquiries, please don't hesitate to contact Nicolette Stehouwer-den Hollander at or Immanuel Nijssen at

Related content
The central government has allocated €25 million to Smart Delta Drechtsteden and €17.7 million to the Waterweg Region.
birdview Rotterdamse haven
Related links
Resilient Delta

Compare @count study programme

  • @title

    • Duration: @duration
Compare study programmes