The current pandemic has forced companies to reinvent themselves and put innovation higher on the agenda. Consequently, innovation has outgrown the “creative thinking box” and become more accountable. The logical Vlerick response was to redesign our Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship to focus more clearly on managing, measuring and valuing innovation.
Robin Kleer, Professor of Innovation and Programme Director Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship: “It was obvious to me from our students’ feedback that we were already doing a great job on the entrepreneurship front, but we needed to place even more emphasis on the innovation part of the programme. Our colleagues in Career Services, like Emilia, who are in direct contact with students and companies throughout the year, drew our attention to some clear, new market needs for which we wanted our students to be fully equipped.”
Emilia Konttinen, Career Advisor: “Yes, the pandemic has forced companies to reinvent themselves, which has put innovation even higher on the agenda. At the same time, innovation has outgrown the ‘creative thinking box’ and has a more analytical component. Companies expect their innovation managers to use new technologies and to measure the impact of innovation.
“Today, every company needs to be innovative if they want to survive and be future-proof – and that requires talent with technological readiness and innovative thinking skills, even in established companies. This was confirmed once again during our latest Career Fair in February.”
Robin Kleer: “By focusing more clearly on innovation, we achieve a better balance with the other key component of the programme, entrepreneurship. With the (co-)founders of Belgium’s unicorns all being alumni of our School, entrepreneurship is something that comes naturally here. Today, the expertise we have acquired in entrepreneurship extends far beyond start-ups alone and is now represented in innovations from within. But rest assured, the new Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship remains true to the entrepreneurial DNA of Vlerick, working with several start-ups and even the start-up accelerator.”
What exactly is going to change in the Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship programme?
Robin Kleer: “We’ve given our general management courses an innovative edge, creating a hub of innovation together with game-changing companies in the innovative city of Leuven, in Silicon Valley and beyond. We’ve also added new courses on marketing of new products, strategic management of technology, change management and technology foresight.”
How will that affect the students’ learning experience?
Robin Kleer: “For the new courses, we can rely on the expertise of business professionals and dedicated faculty like Professor Kurt Verweire for change management – an essential skill for anyone wanting to introduce new practices, processes or products in their organisation – and Professor Kristof Stouthuysen for innovation accounting. This will enable our students to leave Vlerick with a toolset, ready to not just instil change, but also measure and value it.
“But the Vlerick experience remains unchanged: learning in action is key. We still visit Silicon Valley and offer plenty of opportunities for interaction and networking with companies, for instance during the two career fairs, the start-up & scale-up event and numerous alumni events where students meet guest speakers and entrepreneurial Vlerick alumni.”
What kind of student profile are you looking for, to join the Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship programme?
Emilia Konttinen: “I believe the programme will attract students who want to challenge the status quo with innovation from within an existing company, be it a big corporation, a start-up or a scale-up. Some of them might even go beyond that and create their own company.”
And finally, how will you check whether the changes are in line with market demand?
Robin Kleer: “Primarily, we want to focus on the students’ aspirations, on landing their dream job and making sure they have the right match and toolset to create that extra value for the company.”
Emilia Konttinen: “During their Vlerick year, students receive personal and customised career coaching to prepare them for the job market. We then monitor where they end up, in terms of role and company, immediately after graduation, one year later and then three years after graduation. This helps us understand whether the adapted programme closes the gap we identified.”