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Monday, September 4, the new academic year was officially opened, also at the Eindhoven University of Technology. On top of speeches by rector Frank Baaijens and guest lecturer Alexander Pechtold, Tessie Hartjes could address the audience with her story about the importance of the brand new Innovation Space. This is what she said:

Dear fellow members of the TU/e community,

Today is not only the start of a new academic year but we also celebrate the start of the TU/e Innovation Space. Personally, I feel very excited about this because it is a missing piece of the puzzle.

But, before telling you more about The Innovation Space I would like to share with you one very defining moment from my life.

The moment occurred during my high school period.

At a certain point during that period everyone needs to choose between two main educational directions. The one most of us here have chosen is that of the bèta sciences and so did I.

After that and without my knowledge, my mentor at the time then phoned my parent’s home and my mom answered. He told her I had chosen the bèta direction but he thought that was a bad choice as my grades indicated a better match with the other direction.

So when I got home she told about the phonecall but she did not reveal any consequences, so being a bit confused I asked her what she answered him. “Oh I told him that won’t be much of a challenge then, now would it.” And at the time I was just relieved I did not have to change my plans but it was only until later I realized the importance and empowerment of her answer.

It encouraged me to keep challenging myself without having to worry about disappointing my parents. Her approval strengthened my own trust and confidence about this choice.

Just as my parents have always supported me so I could push my own boundaries, the Innovation Space will support all those individuals that take up the challenges to push the boundaries of innovation and themselves as well.

So why then here at the university?

Because it is not enough anymore to provide future engineers only with technical skills. Our society requires engineers

– to work in multidisciplinary teams,
– to iterate designs fast,
– to think about sustainable manufacturing or how  to create a circular economy,
– and to address global markets while keeping in mind the ethical aspect of their work.

The Innovation Space will be a community and facility that supports hands-on education, engineering design, the student teams as well as entrepreneurship. I believe the real goal is to inspire each other so that you will do things you would have never expected from yourself otherwise. Just like I am standing here today or just came back from (a heavily delayed) flight from San Francisco.

At the Innovation Space you will meet new friends, find new opportunities, and if you really want to excel you will find the mentorship and support you need. Because you can’t do it alone. There will be no closed doors as they not only form physical but mainly psychological barriers. And the community will be there when you fail. And you will fail because if you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried anything new and then you’d better stay at home.

The Innovation Space will capture all the entrepreneurial energy that is currently scattered around our campus. It’s a place for ideation and inspiration.

And when you take the next step, just as Lightyear is doing, you will be very thankful for the opportunities you have been given. You now have a story to tell so people make time to listen to it. That is how we ended up talking to one of the two co-founders of Tesla as well as one of their first investors. And certainly talking to this investor has been a very insightful. We loved it but it is a little tough so you have to be up for it. Although they scrutinized probably every part of our plan, they gave us their time and benefit of the doubt because, and I quote: “Well, yeah, after all, they have been World Champions twice so that gives them credit.”

Having the benefit of the doubt will get you in but the rest is up to you. You will need to put in a lot of effort, get together a team of the brightest minds with relentless motivation in order to truly tackle our world’s greatest challenges. But as of today, you will find all these ingredients and energy bundled at the Innovation Space. Will you join us?

Tomorrow, Wednesday 6 September, the Innovation Space will open its doors for “Drinks & Demos“. More on the Innovation Space in an interview with Tom Selten that will be published tomorrow morning.

Photo (c) Bart van Overbeeke