Tying together the worlds of business and data science: it’s all about asking the right questions

Sandra van den PollIn our ongoing series about how the Jheronimus Academy of Data Science (JADS) brings students together with business, Sandra van den Poll introduces the vital work of the impact team in involving businesses in the educational programmes.


Alongside the education and research team, JADS also has an impact team which focuses on the third pillar of an academic institution: the knowledge exchange between academia and society.

This third pillar is rather unknown in the modern academic world but was officially established as a key pillar of Dutch Universities by the Dutch government in 2012.

At JADS, the daily practice of the Impact team is to connect the research and education programmes at JADS with the local, regional and international ecosystems.

JADS serves as an ecosystem in the province of North-Brabant, focusing on value creation for business and society based on data insights with a foundation in education and research. It acts as a hybrid ecosystem enabler and key link in the chain connecting regional ecosystem players to applied research throughout JADS in addition to data science related start-ups in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

In doing so, JADS has brought more than 300 collaborations with companies and external organizations to completion since 2016.

Why work with JADS?

The reason businesses work with JADS is often based on a combination of:

  • Access to talent; access to talent such as our students, scientists or the start-ups that emerge from JADS.
  • Access to high-level knowledge; access to high-quality, independent knowledge of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  • New business opportunities; developing new data-driven capabilities together with a company or external organization.

Organizations such as WWF, Deloitte, Floryn, ParkNow, Unilever, and many others have participated in the past five years.

The challenges the students worked on included both for-profit and non-profit examples.

Supporting staff and students

As it has become more important for students to choose the data challenge and the related organization they would like to work on and balance the difficulty level of these projects, the role of the impact team has grown to support the educational staff in finding the right match for their courses.

This has become even more the case since we upscaled the real-life data science assignments in the programme, translating to more than a year of challenge-based learning in a scientific programme:  unique in the Netherlands and Europe!

Next to the challenge-based scientific learning programme, the welcoming environment of the Netherlands is very appealing to international students. It’s a unique educational experience in an exceptional setting: it means studying and working as part of a small, close-knit community on a dedicated campus.

Finding the right match is also key for the In Action series of Master’s courses.

The challenge that we are happy to tackle together is: how do we ensure a valuable connection between the company and JADS, so that we can support the ambitions of the organization in the short and longer term and simultaneously enable our students to apply their data science knowledge in a real business context.

This is all about asking the right questions.

Many companies find their way to JADS with the knowledge that they have to do ‘something with data’ but what exactly and the ‘why’ are often unclear.

The partnership managers in the impact team aim to clarify these questions by engaging in meaningful conversations to build long term partnerships.

Data Entrepreneurship in Action

In the third part of the In Action course series, Data Entrepreneurship in Action, corporates can present a focus or problem area as inspiration for students to set-up their own data driven startup. Corporates who have participated are SAP, Unilever, Heijmans, CZ.

During this course, students form groups and try to find an actual market problem or use one of the focus problem areas from the corporates. The ultimate goal is to build a product or service to solve this problem.

Some of these student groups become so enthusiastic about the problem and their solution, they continue as a real start-up.

To help these start-ups to reach the next level, the start-up incubator ‘Playground’ was founded. Here the student start-ups get support with validating the problem, the solution, the business model and finding their first customers.

In conclusion

As said, the In Action series is the missing link to connect universities to the real job market and set the blueprint for a contemporary teaching style that prepares the new generations of intrapreneurs, consultants, entrepreneurs, and data science innovators.

Therefore, we are always interested to speak with enthusiastic and innovative companies to see how we can link their business challenges to our course objectives.

You can find more information about JADS and our program on our website.



About the author

With 8 years of experience in international relations and partnership management in several sectors, Sandra van den Poll is partnership manager in the Impact team at JADS.

Sandra has specialized in connecting companies within the local, regional and international ecosystem with knowledge institutes, government organisations and advisors in order to create new business opportunities and take the ecosystem to a higher level.

As partnership manager, Sandra is very passionate about helping businesses with their data challenges and connecting them with the right projects and programmes within the institute of JADS.

Find Sandra on LinkedIn.

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