Looking back building up the Engine and what he sees in its future
All good things must come to an end: Dick Koster, TNO’s liaison manager at Eindhoven Engine, will retire on 30 September. In this newsletter, Dick looks back on his experiences building up the Engine and what he sees in its future.
One step after another
“I never had a long-term career plan,” Dick begins. “But after executing R&D, I got involved in organizational management and setting up external collaborations. Three years ago, I was ready for a final step.” After reaching out to the TNO network for a fresh challenge, Dick was introduced to Eindhoven Engine – then a concept waiting to be brought to life. “It was an idea that resonated with me. How do you make your organization fit for the future?”
The challenge of connecting innovative minds was nothing new to Dick, having played a key role in TNO collaborations in places as diverse as Germany, Russia, Australia and Japan. “Trying to team up with various cultures is something that really interests me, and I took this with me when we started the Engine. TU/e is a technical university and Fontys has a focus on practice-oriented students. I had my background in TNO – somewhere between universities and industry – so we looked at how we could benefit each other.”
“There’s another step to take: assessing the composition of teams and making people aware of blind spots.”
Benefits on all sides
For TNO, a major advantage of becoming an equal stakeholder in Eindhoven Engine was the opportunity to cluster strengths and uncover new ways to accelerate innovation in the Brainport region. “TNO has a long history in cooperation with both TU/e and Fontys separately, the new cooperation within Eindhoven Engine unleashes the collective intelligence in an optimum way and enables better access to engineering talent (BSc and MSc students from the knowledge institutes).
Added value was envisioned through co-location, boosting their operations with the spirit of student teams while allowing TU/e and Fontys access to their industrial knowledge. “You really see the enthusiasm of the students, who are able to mobilize support from external parties both big and small,” continues Dick. “On a national scale, I think it’s new and I’m pleased it’s worked out. But innovation won’t happen just by putting people together; you need to coach, guide and stimulate their interactions, for which we’ve created tools like design thinking in the Engine Academy.”
“I’ve realized that my career progress was due to a talent for communication and inspiration in collaboration with people and organizations. Looking back, that made the difference.”
“Another big benefit is network support. When you combine our networks, you can involve a lot more skills and experience than just a project team alone. Personally, I think there’s another step to take: assessing the composition of teams and making people aware of blind spots. People often try to find lookalikes who confirm their beliefs, but you then end up in ‘thinking alleys’ where you don’t really understand the missing skills in your team. I have a firm belief that the Engine will be able to make another contribution here.”
This future will be realized in part by Dick’s successor, Joelle van den Broek. “I met Joelle 20 years ago and we had creative experiences sharing approaches from her product/industrial design background, so I’m sure she’ll fit right in,” Dick smiles. “As for me, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a good time to retire from my professional career. I’ll see where my talent for communication and inspiration takes me. One ambition is to spend more time on my board membership at the Talent Foundation, which supports young people in developing their talents and creating a better future for themselves and their environment.”