PNO Consultants: the history of an innovation

Every innovation begins with one good idea and a lot of passion. We support that wholeheartedly – because we recognise it. We started out the same way, back in 1985. We made a running start from small up-and-comer to multinational innovation and funding consultancy. Through the years, we saw both great successes and rough times. But all those times made us more aware of who we are, and always strive to be: an organisation that creates space for new ideas.

This is the history of our innovation.

Beginnings: three students at the start of a new industry

The funding landscape is complex. That’s what three Dutch students in Business Administration discovered in the 80s when they were charting grants for a graduation paper. They used the results of their research to advise a number of businesses, that went on to receive sizeable grants. The success was impressive: the students even made the news. And an idea was born: what if they could relieve more businesses from the burden of applying for funding, so that those businesses could simply focus on their innovation? None of the founders could imagine what a hit that seemingly simple innovation would be. Or that it would spawn an entirely new industry: grant advisory.

The early years: holding our ground

Our innovation grabbed hold. One grant advice agency after another opened its doors. We ourselves grew from 3 to 40 people, to a second office and then even more offices, all across Europe. Grant advisory was hot and competition was heavy. And governments – rightfully so – were evaluating funding critically. We had to stay on top of our game, and make many rapid decisions, in order to keep doing what we wanted to do: lighten organisations’ financial load, so that their innovative ideas could flourish.

Crisis: a multinational back to its roots

Our explosive growth was marvellous, but it also meant that we really had to step to it. So we did. Halfway through the 90s we were responsible for a staff of over 300 people across several offices in Western and Eastern Europe. When the economic crisis hit us around 2008, all that changed. Like many other companies, we had to reassess who we wanted to be. We took a conscious decision to not throw in the towel, but to become even stronger. We resolved to focus our efforts even more on helping others realise their innovation – and through that, meet the important challenges in the world. Reinvigorated, we got to work.

Creating space for innovation

At the moment, we have 450 PNO people working together in multiple European countries… but still, we feel we are closer to our original innovative idea than we have ever been. Yes, we can call ourselves market leader in innovation and funding consultancy now. But at the same time, we are basically still those people who were trying to make it easier for businesses to do something new. The people who create space for ideas. And as long as it’s up to us, that is who we will continue to be. For any business that has a passion for starting something new.

Because, even after all these years? We recognise that.