Building a regional SME database in Drenthe, the Netherlands


The Province of Drenthe, in the Netherlands has developed Regiodatabank, a regional database, including all the available information on SMEs in the region. Through this new database, the Economics Department and the Business Support Programme gain valuable insights to further support SMEs and to foster new regional partnerships. SMEs can also access the database and use these data for their own activities. 



At the beginning of the project, the data regarding local companies was very fragmented and was scarcely used for policy making and supporting growth in the region. Therefore the Province of Drenthe focused its efforts on gathering data, using webscrapping. It also organized a hackathon.

One of the key challenges for establishing such a database was the legal basis that had to be completely in line with the GDPR. It took a lot of time and effort to formulate all the legal aspects of a regional database.



Problem solving process

The problem-solving process involved a lot of conversations with the regional data protection officers. They helped the Province write the document that tackled all the questions around data security and privacy.


The general objective of a regional SME database is to increase the effectiveness of policies and interventions in favor of SMEs. Using Big Data principles, the Province of Drenthe is able to access and exploit more precise and updated data on the local companies.  


Expected results and outcomes

The database is now readily available in the Province of Drenthe’s data architecture. Although there is still work to be done in using this data within the business support program, the infrastructure and database to further build on in the future is already available.

Through new database, the Province of Drenthe expects that its business support programme IBDO will be able to better help SMEs in scaling up and internationalizing.

The establishment of the platform has already created a lot of awareness within the region on the possibilities in data science.


Lessons Learned

Another difficulty in the project is that a lot of people have a certain way of working that is very difficult to change. Implementing a new solution such as data science is often met with a lot of skepticism after which you first have to prove that it can be helpful.

SMEs had to be convinced that they could benefit from this project. We heard a lot of them say that what they did up till now worked, so there is no direct reason for them to change their way of working. For this we fortunately have our business support program that is very good in showing further growth and innovation opportunities.