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#9 SCENARIO: UNIVERSITY OF TWENTE

ACCOMODATING INNOVATION BY STARTING A NEW ENTITY

The University of Twente is challenging you to think about how to further stimulate innovation at the UT. To this end, you will be working on the design of an innovation platform that will enable the University to test and develop concepts that are normally seen as too out-of-the-box or challenging for universities to make happen. Your efforts will directly contribute to the formation of our new strategy for 2020-2022.

UNIVERSITY OF TWENTE

The University of Twente (UT) is a research university founded in 1961. It offers degree programs in engineering, science, technology, computer sciences, and social sciences. Since the start, the University has been connected with the industrial heritage of its region and the well-being of its population. The UT is a pioneer in fusing tech, science, and engineering with social sciences to impact society.

SHAPING2030

Organizations need a plan of action in order to achieve long term goals – and so do universities. Shaping2030 is the title of the strategy formation process of the University of Twente.[1] The name refers to two things: our ambition to have an impact on the future and help shape it, and the process  itself of putting together (shaping) a new dream for the University of Twente.

 

So far
In January 2019, the University kicked off Shaping2030. We believe that changes in society and on our planet are happening at a faster pace than ever before in history, and some developments are also potentially disruptive to the status quo of higher education. During the first few months, we therefore researched these societal developments and phenomena and discussed how they could affect the future of universities. A lot of events were organized so that everybody could learn and also share their ideas. For example, we invited experts to talk about future developments in artificial intelligence, sustainability, lifelong learning, and collaborating with industries.

Then we organized meetings to discuss the ambitions of the University of Twente the coming 10 years: Who do we want to be? What role do we want to play in society? What kind of education do students need in order to be ready for a changing labour market? Who do we want to work with? What new things do we want to do, and in what areas?

We have put together these answers in one document that describes our dream of the future of the University of Twente: this is our Vision for 2030. The document also includes a new mission statement (see below). That’s milestone #1 reached!

 

What’s next?
Until Fall 2019, staff, students, companies, organizations, and citizens are going to discuss in more detail what steps we need to take to realize our Vision. Those steps we are going to write down in a plan for the coming three years: that will be our Strategy 2020-2022.

Shaping2030 is the name of the trajectory. The Shaping2030 project team is not very big, but there are many people in and outside the organization who actively contribute on a continuous basis: researchers, professors, students, support staff, experts, directors, et cetera. Create Tomorrow is also one of the platforms we are using to talk with people who we think can really come up with brilliant ideas and innovative ways to realise them. Because it is innovation and out-of-the-box thinking we need!

[1] Our current strategy is called Vision2020, whose validity officially ends in 2020.

CHALLENGE

Current situation
Higher education in the Netherlands is known for its high quality and its international study environment. The UT, like most Dutch research universities and universities of applied sciences, is a publicly funded university. This means that most investments in education, research and innovation are done by Dutch government. Part of our university’s financing is done through funding from Europe, for example via grants, and specific research projects.

Being a publicly funded university (as opposed to being a private institution) means that a university is bound to certain rules and regulations and has a responsibility towards society regarding the choices it makes. It also means that new ideas and concepts that do not fit (well) in the current system are difficult or impossible to explore, e.g. because they are potentially risky to the organization itself or because they do not immediately seem beneficial to explore further. Simply put: our higher education system provides stability and allows us to carry on doing what we do, but potentially hampers innovating, pioneering, exploring.

 

Future situation
We believe that great people and great ideas need the right conditions in order to flourish. Also in 2030, the UT will be a university of technology where innovation derives from curiosity and an entrepreneurial mindset. In our draft Vision for 2030, we have formulated our ambition on entrepreneurship as follows:

By its DNA, our university has a leading position in entrepreneurship in Europe. We have helped define entrepreneurship in tertiary education and inspired many universities to follow suit. Combining technical knowledge with complex problem-solving abilities, creativity, and cognitive flexibility is in our DNA, and we will continue to instill such entrepreneurial spirit in our people. Towards 2030, we are taking entrepreneurship to the next level by intentionally strengthening our entrepreneurial push into society together with partners. Building upon what is there, we will invent new standards for university-industry cooperation but also for social entrepreneurship. These new standards will inspire new generations of students.

To create the right conditions for exploring new ideas and concepts, the UT is going to set up an innovation platform in the coming years. In our draft Vision, we have formulated this as follows:

Pioneering and experimenting are the seeds that drive entrepreneurship. We respect our tradition as an enterprising university and will be paying tribute to this legacy by setting up an innovating entity next to the existing organization. This innovation unit will provide space for us to experiment with ideas and opportunities without risking the proceedings of the standing organization. It will enable us to pioneer in new forms of education, research and innovation to offer students and companies maximum chances in an international context. To allow this external innovation unit to flourish, our operational processes are highly standardized.

We want to challenge you think about how to further stimulate innovation at the UT. To this end, you will be working on the design of this innovation platform that will enable the University to test and develop concepts that are normally seen as too out-of-the-box or challenging for universities to make happen.

ASSIGNMENT

Propose a model/design that gives substance (meaning) to the innovation platform that the UT wants to set up.

A) Proposal. Your proposal should at least include the following aspects:

→ A clear and elaborate description of the purpose (why) of the innovation platform (1); how does it operate (2); and what does it do (3)?

Questions to get you started:

– Why? Why does it exist? What advantages does the platform have?

– How? How is governance / management organized?

– What? What kind of activities do we see in this innovation unit?

∘ New types of research?
Building new machines?
Test-driving new organizational processes?
Collaboration between parties that have never worked before? Et cetera.

– What kinds of products / services / output does the platform generate?

– Who? What people work there? Who can we meet?

∘ Students? Teachers? Support staff? Citizens of Enschede? Local SMEs? Teenagers? International NGO’s?

– Where? Where is this platform?

∘ Physical?
Virtual?

→ A section that explains how the products / services / output connects back to the standing UT organization. How does the output of the platform strengthen (or weaken) the UT organization?

→ A section that gives insights into what you think has to be arranged before this new organization can start.

∘ Legal?
Financial?
Other?

→ A section that describes it can become a financially healthy organization in the long run, separate from the standing UT organization.

→ A short list of risks that might stop your plan from becoming successful.

→  A suitable name for the innovation platform.

 

B) Example. To give your audience an idea of how your proposed model is going to work in practice:

– Give 1 example of products / services / output that your platform will deliver

– Include a visual

∘ Drawing? Photograph? Infographic?

– As vividly and with as much detail as possible.

 

Please take into account:

– We urge you to think out of the box. This is essential. Try to imagine there are no restrictions apart from the two conditions below.

– The platform’s primary objective is achieving breakthrough innovations, and not becoming a commercial, profit-seeking company (though making profit is not forbidden).

– Condition #1: the draft Mission of the UT should also apply to the new innovation platform:

University of Twente is here to sustainably empower society.
We choose to be the ultimate people-first university of technology.

So: the human factor (people, community, togetherness, society, talent) is important.

– Condition #2: the draft Vision and your proposal should not contradict one another on key points. Towards 2030, the UT especially pays attention to these three societal developments and the challenges they pose: social/social divide, sustainable, digital.  

EXTRA INFORMATION

– The Ambidextrous Organization, by Charles A. O’Reilly III and Michael L. Tushman (paper published in 2004)

– How to Create an Ambidextrous Organization, by Marc Looi. https://medium.com/@marklooi/how-to-become-an-ambidextrous-organization-104223a373c2 (retrieved on 22 April 2019)

– For inspiration, search for: Thales Digital Factory. https://www.thalesdigital.io/en (retrieved on 22 April 2019)

– University of Twente First Draft of Mission and Vision 2030 (unpublished)

– Tip: do some analysis on what kind of organizations and people universities cater for or collaborate with. A quick stakeholder analysis could give you great ideas for what might take place in your future platform!