Healthy Ageing Network Northern Netherlands (HANNN) mobilises entrepreneurs, intellectuals & government to contribute to the societal challenge, healthy ageing.
This good practice shows how a cluster organisation evolves from a classic cluster to a game changer for a societal challenge and how Smart Specialisation and ERDF funding can further such a change. An important success factor for HANNN is that it was formed around the societal challenge of finding solutions to the ageing population, resulting in a healthier lifestyle and subsequently in economic benefits for the region. ‘Healthy Ageing’ is one of the four societal challenges, the core of the RIS3 strategy of the Northern Netherlands.
In 2009 HANNN was founded in a ‘classic manner’, from the perspective of business development and economics. To reach their objective, a close collaboration has been established of knowledge institutes, governmental institutes and enterprises. A modest amount of ERDF was used to start the cluster. It grew rapidly and built strong (inter)national networks, bringing two times the highest score of Reference Site status on healthy ageing to the region.
Over the years, the cluster got a more holistic approach. With sharing their knowledge, they attracted more attention on healthy ageing within the political agendas. They became a game changer, instigating fundamental changes within policy areas like health care, business development and transport. From 2014 ERDF was used to establish innovative projects to boost developments. This resulted in numerous successful initiatives contributing to the societal challenges addressed by the RIS3 of the region

Resources needed

Establishment costs: 3 Million, of which €100.000 ERDF. Main finance shifted from primarily private parties to governmental and knowledge institutes within the region.
Two of the three current projects receive funding from ERDF. There are 10 people working for the HANNN (7 FTEs), incl. 4 interns.

Evidence of success

Growth of the network. HANNN started with 12 larger companies as members and currently has 80 members of a wider network.
Municipality Groningen developed a new health strategy, based on a congress HANNN organised. HANNN generally influenced political agendas concerning health in the region.
Participant and co-initiator in over 20 (European) projects and initiatives like LifeLines, Health Hub Roden, and Healthy Ageing Campus. 2 times awarded with highest score Reference Site on healthy ageing.

Difficulties encountered

Changing from a classical ‘economic’ cluster into one with a more holistic approach. Some funders want justification with success rates in numbers. With a societal issue, however, it’s not always measurable. Therefore HANNN transferred more into a system of multi-funding, more secure and independent

Potential for learning or transfer

From this good practice several lessons can be learned and transferred:
1. How to enable clusters to really contribute to societal challenges.
2. The challenge to cope with an ageing population and healthy ageing are already topics of discussion and priority on European and national level. Regions who are also facing this challenge can profit from the experience of HANNN and the Northern Netherlands, being a 4 stars Reference Site.
3. HANNN gained a lot of experience with the creation of start-ups and spin-offs, which subsequently joined business networks and clusters.
4. How to set up a Smart Specialisation Strategy built on societal challenges and how to programme ERDF (and other funds) on this.
Main institution
Healthy Ageing Network Northern Netherlands
Groningen, Netherlands (Nederland)
Start Date
June 2009
End Date


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Good Practices being followed by

Maria Nutu

South Muntenia Regional Development Agency