For SMEs as well as for TU/e students there is still a world to be won if they come in contact with each other more. In the first case, for a fresh look at innovation issues and in the second case for a successful first step towards a career in busy Brainport Eindhoven. Those are the needs the Question bank (“Kennisvragenbank“) meets, a project of the industry association High Tech NL, KIEN FOUNDATION (Node Innovation Electrical engineering Netherlands) and TU/e SURE Innovation, which is a part of TU/e Innovation Lab. “We offer SMEs access to the knowledge of the TU/e and thus create opportunities for students at those same companies”, summarizes Monique Greve, project manager of the Question bank, from TU/e SURE Innovation.
Study related work
“TU/e SURE Innovation is an initiative of TU/e professor Ton Backx”, says Greve. “He noticed that SMEs have the need to connect with laboratories, lessons, libraries, professors and the students of the university. At the same time, TU/e SURE Innovation pursues to get that business life, the SMEs segment, more on the retina of students. Because experience shows that students often don’t think about that when they start looking for a job after they graduate. They usually end up at the calibrated large companies. But there are plenty of students who just have the need for a starting position at a company where they have more freedom and space for their own ideas and impact. To make them aware of that, we arrange opportunities for study-related work in SMEs during their education.”
In order to bring those two worlds even closer together, the Question bank was created. It works like this: SMEs submit an innovation issue online. A team of specially selected students analyses that issue and then refers to the most appropriate route to come to the best solution for the issue in question. That will be fed back to the company and if it’s interested, an official assignment follows. If that is carried out within the TU/e (because that is not a requirement, it can also be referred to another university), TU/e SURE Innovation looks for the suitable students to actually carry out the assignment within the company. “We’re only working with master students who perform above average and we have access to students of all faculties. Thanks to this top selection plus the internal connection with other TU/e knowledge facilities, we distinguish ourselves from other secondment agencies.” The students sign up if they’re interested and an admission committee determines whether they meet the requirements. If accepted, they themselves decide to which assignments they want to contribute and they have to apply for them by means of a motivation letter.
“We’re only working with master students who perform above average”Monique Greve, TU/e
From wild ideas to prototypes
According to Greve, the assignments as well as the SME companies at which they’re carried out are very diverse. “It goes from wild ideas to prototypes. For example, we conduct more feasibility studies, like for the conversion of a machine for ATD in Hapert. But we also carry out assignments for healthcare institutions, something very different. In addition, we conduct market research, for example for an international product launch. And together with a fish farm in Kenya, we’ve thought about a structure for regulating the temperature of the water in the cultivation ponds, which increased their production and so also the sales. A really good example of how much impact our assignments can have for a company. The brainstorm sessions we perform and support are also very successful. That happens monthly.” Assignments can be taken up solo as well as by a team.
The companies pay for the execution of the assignment and they receive the thinking and manpower of the crème de la crème of the TU/e students and their access to all university facilities. “However, there are also companies that have a good R&D department themselves, but would still like to come in contact with these young people, the new recruits”, says Greve. “That especially goes for the companies that are affiliated with High Tech NL. So we also facilitate that. The supporters of the KIEN Foundation are a little more conservative and especially seek support in making innovation impacts. Thanks to our wide student pool, we can be meaningful in all areas. And thanks to the wide diversity of companies within the SME segment in Brainport Eindhoven we can give the students very challenging assignments.”
Submitting a question to the Question bank is free for companies, moreover. Only if they want to follow the recommended route, it becomes a paid assignment.