Skip to main content

From PhD to SME: a leadership programme developed by Voka

This programme is a joint effort of Voka – KvK Limburg and UHasselt (Doctoral Schools).

Around 90% of PhD holders in Belgium continue their careers beyond academia. Business careers differ from academic ones: in business, people typically work in rapidly changing contexts, take considerable risks, focus on attitude rather than on knowledge, and work together with different kinds of profiles.

UHasselt and Voka – KvK Limburg join forces for the exclusive 'From PhD to SME' programme, the aim of which is to build bridges between the world of research and small and medium-sized enterprises. Twelve (post)doctoral researchers are given the unique opportunity to learn more about how SMEs are run and to put this knowledge immediately into practice.

Participants are given a chance to gain first-hand (leadership) experience in a Flemish SME in order to increase their hiring potential and smooth their transition into the non-academic labour market. In addition, they will be able to build formal as well as informal networks, and learn to identify and name their own strengths - maybe their skills and interests match better with business life than they had ever considered?


The programme will start in October 2020 and run until May 2021.
It consists of the following components:

  • a full-day kick-off session on 26/10/2020
  • 6 modules, consisting each of a half-day theoretical session, a practical assignment in an SME and a half-day intervision session

Throughout the programme, participants will be supervised by a coach, Voka – KvK Limburg, as well as the SME they collaborate with. The focus will be on an integral approach of thinking and acting.

A. Theoretical sessions

Participants get acquainted with all strategic and tactical dimensions of running a business (strategy, processes, people, etc.)

Module 1 - 03.11.2020, 14h00 - 17h00
Strategic choices and achievements

Module 2 - 02.12.2020, 14h00 - 17h00
Leadership - primary process
Extra: presentation skills training group 2 from 9h00 – 12h30

Module 3 - 12.01.2021, 09h00 - 12h00 

Module 4 - 24.02.2021, 09h00 - 12h00

Module 5 - 30.03.2021, 09h00 - 12h00

Module 6 - 27.04.2021, 09h00 - 12h00 

B. Practical assignment in an SME

After each module, theory will be put into practice in fixed groups of 4 participants. Each group will be matched with an SME. Based on discussions with the CEO and other officers within the company participants will give advice and draft an action plan to overcome the SME's strategic and operational challenges.
The 3 SMEs, selected by Voka – KvK Limburg, are Flemish companies which are currently facing a strategic review, or find themselves in the midst of a reorganisation as a result of rapid growth, or... What these companies have in common is the need for external input, critical feedback and new ideas.
The 3 groups of (post)doctoral researchers will be formed beforehand in order to ensure optimal heterogeneity and complementarity.

C. Intervision: feedback & reporting on the practical experience

During the half-day intervision sessions, the three groups will discuss their case with each other and with their coach: in this way participants will broaden their horizons and learn from the experiences collected in other SMEs as well.

Intervision 1 - 17.11.2020, 14h00 - 17h00
Extra: presentation skills training group 1 from 9h00 – 12h30
Intervision 2 - 15.12.2020, 14h00 - 17h00
Intervision 3 - 02.02.2021, 09h00 - 12h00
Intervision 4 - 10.03.2021, 09h00 - 12h00
Intervision 5 - 13.04.2021, 09h00 - 12h00
Intervision 6 - 11.05.2021, 09h00 - 12h00

Official launch + information session

The official launch of the programme (incl. lots of practical information) will be organised on Tuesday 15 September 2020 at 17:30 in Auditorium 1 Louis Verhaegen, Martelarenlaan 42, 3500 Hasselt.
Register here for this session.


Frank De Craecker (Workitects)
Stefan Vanderick (Moment bvba)


Dr Stefanie Kerkhofs & Dr Ilse Van Damme (Doctoral Schools, UHasselt)
Filip Vanderhoydonks & Cathérine Dreesen (Voka, KvK Limburg)

Application and selection

Deadline for applications: Monday 21/09/2020 – 9 am
Preselected candidates will receive an invitation for a selection interview to take place on 7 October 2020 or 12 October 2020. Applicants will be able to indicate preferred interview date(s) on their registration form.

Target group

Doctoral and postdoctoral researchers from UHasselt


This programme is designed for researchers that have at least 1 year of research experience.





Registration fee: covered by the doctoral schools

Extra info

Het is op dit moment niet mogelijk om te registreren voor deze activiteit.

Contact details

If you have any questions or would like to have more information, please contact:

Voka KvK Limburg: Filip Vanderhoydonks (; +32 11 56 02 32 )
UHasselt: Dr. Ilse Van Damme (; +32 11 26 90 61)

Wanted: SMEs to collaborate with PhDs

Do you also want to supervise a heterogeneous and international team of four ambitious and studious PhD candidates and/or postdoctoral researchers during 6 months? 'From PhD to SME' is a unique opportunity to collaborate with researchers who not only have a lot of know-how, but also a refreshing view on your company.
Interested? Then be sure to contact Filip Vanderhoydonks! Or check the registration page (NL) for SMEs!