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Case Study: Tilburg University

Watch the interview with Patrick Kenis to learn more about the Zero hunger lab of the Tilburg University.

If you are interested in learning more about the role of universities in innovation networks, don’t miss the (optional) interview with Professor Patrick Kenis from Tilburg University.

In our interview, Patrick describes the real-world example of the Zero Hunger Lab. He talks about the importance of organizational networks to tackle today’s biggest challenges and elaborates on the opportunities and challenges universities have in intra-organizational innovation networks. It puts a lot of what we introduced to you earlier into perspective and makes it tangible.

Patrick Kenis from Tilburg University does lots of research on inter-, and intra-organizational setup of organizations, relationships, policy networks, role of universities in organizational networks.

What does he mean by organizational networks: a set of sovereign organizations that produce value collectively which they could not on their own. As a researcher, he prefers to tackle questions with social and societal relevance, often aligned with UN SDGs. The biggest challenges of the 21st century such as poverty, hunger and climate change require collaboration across organizations from different sectors and organizational forms (NGO, public organizations).

Zero hunger lab

Tilburg University works together with outside actors, to develop solutions against world hunger. The project was started from mathematicians and data analysts in university faculties by collecting ideas from outside to understand where data science knowledge could contribute to world food supply. The project won the humanitarian innovation award and Franz Edelman prize for applied mathematics by generating innovation in an interdisciplinary multi-stakeholder approach.

The project group has defined parameters based on which outside partners are invited to join: Every partner has unique capacities to contribute to the problem, invests financial or human capital, wants to share knowledge with the group and find applications for it.

It is challenging to fit organizational networks into current university funding structures and more complicated to interact with other university departments than it is with external parties. Organizational networks benefit universities because they are expected to have an impact and be involved in societal challenges; participation which improves their reputation.

Universities need novel governance structures (rules, recognition and awards, openness, Open Science, etc.) to provide excellent fundamental research and generate societal impact. Most universities are currently not aware of how they need to adapt their organizational structure to build such networks.

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Openness in Science and Innovation

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