The In Action Series: Training the Innovators of Tomorrow

Claudia ZuccaPlato LeungWerner Liebregts






In the first in a mini-series, Claudia Zucca (one of our #DataimpactFellows), Plato Leung and Werner Liebregts introduce a dynamic approach to teaching data-driven entrepreneurship in the Netherlands.

The Jheronimus Academy of Data Science (JADS) is a young and dynamic institute, born by joining the efforts of Tilburg University (TiU) and the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). Being the second campus for both universities, it is about an hour away from Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Antwerp (Belgium), and Aachen (Germany).

JADS is located in the Brainport region in the Netherlands, the innovation region with the highest patenting density in the world. This is demonstrated by the presence of companies like ASML, Philips and SAP, with whom JADS collaborates intensively.

At JADS, students attend a two-year master’s program Data Science and Entrepreneurship, training them in the application of data science to real-life business problems as well as the creation of new entrepreneurial ventures.

The program accompanies the wide range of theoretical classes offered with applied courses that provide students with real experience working for cutting-edge companies that deal with data.

For three semesters of the master’s program, students are involved in the so-called In Action series. This series consists of Data Intrapreneurship in Action, Data Consultancy in Action, and Data Entrepreneurship in Action, respectively.

All three courses are strongly rooted in theory and empirical evidence, yet very practice-oriented, featuring challenges and datasets from various organizations.

In the past five years, non-profit organization (WWF), consulting firm (Deloitte), fintech scale-up (Floryn), popular parking app owner (ParkNow), geospatial analytics platform (ESRI), legal firm (DAS), and many others participated. Last semester JADS own student start-up, MapsUntold, participated on “grown-up” terms as well.

More about the In Action series

Data Intrapreneurship in Action stimulates the experience of working as an Intrapreneurial team — employees who act like entrepreneurs within a large company and are responsible for identifying new business opportunities and developing innovative ideas or initiatives. By doing so, intrapreneurs help established companies to stay relevant and anticipate disruption.

In this course, students are challenged to come up with a valuable business solution using real-world data provided by external stakeholders.

To accomplish that, students work closely with our academic coaches and industrial partners to explore market opportunities, build a business model with the renowned lean start-up method, and develop a proof of concept using a data-driven approach.

Data Consultancy in Action simulates the experience of working for a large company that offers consulting services in the data science domain.

Students work in teams using SCRUM, one of the most popular frameworks companies use to organize their work. Each team is assigned to an actual client, a company that approaches them with a data science problem to solve.

During the course, they are exposed to best practices of consultancy, such as how to deal with a client, act convincingly, and deal with problems in advance to prevent failure.

At the end of the semester, the teams submit a final data product to their client and can write about this working experience on their CVs.

Data Entrepreneurship in Action allows students to engage in entrepreneurship, and to get acquainted with a potential role as start-up entrepreneur.

During the course, student teams go through the first few phases of a typical (lean) start-up process by building the foundations of their own data-driven start-up, either from scratch or based on a business idea that already received some traction prior to the course.

Teams get help from experienced business coaches and mentors on their entrepreneurial journey.

In line with the open innovation paradigm, this course also engages a number of corporates open to collaborate with any of the nascent start-ups in case they happen to develop a business idea that is of joint interest.

JADS is proud to see that many teams continue developing their business (idea) once the course has ended (as an extra-curricular activity). In just over five years, our students founded 35 data-driven start-ups, of which quite a few became successful in terms of attracting clients and/or funding , such as Bluetick and Pushbird.

A beautiful setting for the concluding events

Marienburg campus auditorium

Image: The auditorium of the Mariënburg Campus


Each course in the In Action series concludes with an event hosted in the beautiful auditorium of the Mariënburg Campus, a former chapel built in the XVI century.

Data Intrapreneurship in Action offers a pitch competition with a final prize assigned by the partners’ companies.

Data Consultancy in Action offers a venue to present the products to the companies and to receive professional feedback.

Data Entrepreneurship in Action calls real investors to observe students pitching their start-ups, and trying to convince them to finance their entrepreneurial endeavours.


In conclusion

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.

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


About the authors

Claudia Zucca is an Assistant Professor at the Jheronimus Academy of Data Science, Tilburg University.

She holds a PhD from the University of Exeter, and she previously worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Glasgow. She is a Marie Curie Alumna, and she was part of the first cohort of UK Data Service Data Impact Fellows 2016-2018. Her research focuses on data analytics, especially network analysis, applied to the social science domain, such as forming political opinions, introducing innovation in organizations, and health policy implementation.

Plato Leung works as an Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at The Jheronimus Academy of Data Science (JADS).

His research combines insights from psychology with data science methods to understand the well-being and mental health of entrepreneurs. He is particularly interested in how mental health issues (e.g.  ADHD and narcissism) are related to entrepreneurial outcomes (e.g., intention and success).  In terms of education, he is the course coordinator of the Data Intrapreneurship in Action and Causal Inference for Business Development course.

Werner Liebregts is an Assistant Professor of Data Entrepreneurship at the Jheronimus Academy of Data Science (JADS).

He obtained his PhD in Economics with a focus on intrapreneurship at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. He is currently also a secretary of the Dutch Academy of Research in Entrepreneurship (DARE).


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