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Tilburg University maps ecosystems for Brainport Development

Published: 21st July 2020 Last updated: 21st July 2020

How science and practice reinforce each other

Jacob Derks, a PhD researcher affiliated to TiSEM’s Management Department, has finished a study commissioned by Brainport Development in Eindhoven on how Brainport can improve the ecosystem around Medical Technology (MedTech). This job was right up Jacob’s street: he studies how enterprises develop and strengthen their innovation capabilities. And it is a fine example of how academic expertise within Tilburg University can be directly linked to a practical question from the field. We asked Jacob three questions.

How did Brainport find you?

Brainport already had contacts with the Management Department’s MT because students do graduation projects for Brainport. And there are contacts with Brainport at the School Board level. But this is the first time that Brainport requested applied research. I was subsequently approached because the subject is right up my alley. Not only with respect to the expertise, but also where my personal opinion is concerned: in my view, academic research should be nourished by the practical experiences in the business community, and the business community should be supported by sound academic research. To that end, I always try to translate the results of my research into practical insights.

What was your topic of research?

In addition to being a region, Brainport is also an ecosystem of hundreds of organizations, including companies and knowledge institutions. This means that these organizations collaborate in unique ways within various fields. I explored how the ecosystem can be strengthened in the field of Medical Technology (MedTech). To that end, I mapped this ecosystem, compared it to ecosystems elsewhere, and suggested improvements. Brainport was very satisfied with the study. At the moment, Tilburg University and Brainport Developmentare currently looking at the possibilities of continuing, up-scaling, and securing the collaboration in a more structural partnership so that we can continue to strengthen each other.

What is the importance of this type of collaboration for Tilburg University?

I think that such applied research conducted by the university for and in collaboration with a different organization is very interesting for Tilburg University. At School and university levels, such research is relevant because it is full of impact. It contributes to our mission of ‘Understanding society’. For staff it is interesting because it helps to expand and deepen their networks and because it offers new opportunities for academic publications. It is interesting for students, too: in the wake of such collaboration between two organizations, many opportunities for thesis and internship assignments arise. In other words: it is a win-win situation all round!