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“Everything at JADS breathes data science and entrepreneurship”

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JADS’ unique curriculum, its vibrant community and successful MKB Datalab

The labor market is squeaking and creaking. There is a huge shortage of data specialists, along with almost unlimited technological opportunities. How does JADS respond to this and the pressure from its partners? How is JADS stimulating and facilitating entrepreneurship? And is its own brand strong enough to meet the challenges? Interview with Liesbeth Leijssen, director of business and member of the JADS Management Team: “I feel the dilemmas and the struggle within companies that knock on our door.” And inspiring quotes from leading staff and partners in addition to cases that characterize the uniqueness of JADS.

Liesbeth Leijssen: “We started as a new kind of university, where a thousand flowers could bloom. JADS is a place where people are given the freedom to experiment with all kinds of innovative approaches that contribute to our brand promise ‘We do cool stuff that matters, with data’. I sometimes compare JADS to the small medieval universities with their major impact on their environment. That’s how we work as well. Everything at JADS breathes data science and revolves around entrepreneurial learning, community and building an ecosystem.”

JADS is now moving from the startup phase to a mature phase. The parent universities can let go of the child more and more. But their expertise is still needed. Moreover, Liesbeth suggests, “JADS is still a relatively unknown brand, not yet as well known as the two parent brands. In order to remain competitive, JADS has to execute its Master’s recruitment in close relationship with Tilburg University and TU/e, with JADS Den Bosch as the location.”

Society will need thousands of people skilled in digital technologies in the coming years. The demand for talent and knowledge has increased extremely, also according to a survey conducted by JADS. Liesbeth: “Today businesses want a say in how their employees should be trained now the labor shortage is so severe. They don’t want to wait two years for someone to graduate from our Engineering Doctorate program. So we have to adjust our way of working to that.”

Liesbeth: “We maintain a portfolio of more than 2,000 contacts with more than 300 partners. We actively collaborate with these partners in numerous projects and events, from (professional) education to strategic research projects, from being part of our startup incubator up to the MKB-Datalab. MKB stands for small and medium-sized enterprises, SME)”

Looking at how JADS implements entrepreneurship, three elements stand out:

  • a cross-over curriculum with the startup Playground
  • a vibrant community network of (former) students, scientists and business partners, and
  • the MKB Datalab

Crossover Curriculum

Liesbeth: “Our DNA contains the best of Tilburg and Eindhoven. We have a crossover curriculum with crossover subjects, not just about data engineering but also about business development, ethics and privacy aspects. We have developed a whole new range of propositions. And in the active Playground, led by Jonie Oostveen, students discuss the ins and outs in setting up their own startup.”

In recent years, ambitious students have started very successful businesses. Liesbeth: “And, I think it’s nice and distinctive that they all want to play a meaningful role in society, in an ethical, sustainable and caring sense.”


From the start, a constant stream of organizations spontaneously crossed the monastery threshold to be part of the JADS community. Liesbeth: “What keeps inspiring me is JADS’s intrinsic culture of an open community that fosters change and innovation. Everything here revolves around the community, small-scale project-based and challenge-based education. An entrepreneurial student at JADS values our ‘Hogwarts-approach’, in which entrepreneurs, partners, talent and scientists find each other. This small scale community concept must be safeguarded in the future.”

“The convent building is a wonderful setting for our concept, full of hot spots, small spaces and study workstations. In four buildings on campus data-driven businesses are housed; they prefer to be physically close to JADS. Hybrid working is not so important here, actually an impoverishment within our community-concept. Still, we are well equipped for digital education and have our own studio. JADS has so much to offer. I experience that every day when I walk through the corridors with guests, and talk passionately about JADS, inspiring them. No, I never regretted my move to JADS.”

MKB Datalab

Most companies want to know what to do with their data. When such a request comes in, the impact team is immediately ready to start and make a plan, together with scientists and the Playground. For example, a hospital with many logistics data asked in what way their data could be used smarter, so that doctors, the outpatient clinic or the nursing department can be set up smarter. Liesbeth: “In such cases we want to know, what is the exact problem? What is the low hanging fruit? How can we build a good relationship and which JADS events fit in? Liesbeth: “Getting everything into a sustainable collaboration is a sport. The case can then be picked up in professional education, by a scientist or in the MKB Datalab.”

“I hope to see some impactful startups coming out of the Playground”

Jonie Oostveen, manager of the startup Playground incubator at JADS, helps startups and discusses their ideas and problems. Every day is different, sometimes he works from Eindhoven or Tilburg, for external meetings. And if he is not talking to startup students, there are partners with whom he sits around the table to improve the startup ecosystem in the Den Bosch region or the province of North-Brabant.

Jonie: “It’s great to work with startup students. They are smart, eager and learn fast. It’s great to see the progress they make in only a short period of time. I hope to see some impactful start-ups coming out of the Playground incubator that can really help with the big transitions we are going through. And if I can help these startups with my experience, so they don’t make the mistakes I made, I’d be really satisfied!”

Case: Suspicious transactions at Van Lanschot Bankiers

In the Engineering Doctorate program trainees join an organization for a year to devise a workable solution to a problem in which data science can play a decisive role. An example of such a problem is cybercrime in the banking world. At Van Lanschot Bankiers, trainee Pallabi Sengupta, researched how money laundering and suspicioius transactions can be traced from transaction data, in collaboration with the Public Prosecution Service. How can technology be used to better grasp and understand money laundering, suspicious transactions, networks and relationships. The case was very successful.

“JADS has a very tight community”

The startup Brush AI wants to achieve a larger awareness and focus on responsible data science. Data science applications can have large consequences, and when they are not designed in a careful manner they can be biased in a dangerous way. Brush AI wants to create a low-code/no-code tool that allows business to make use of their data in a responsible manner without needing data science knowledge.

Noëlle Cicilia, Alumna of the JADS Master program: “I think it is mainly because of JADS that I started my startup Brush AI. Entrepreneurship is very much encouraged at JADS. I have always wanted to become an entrepreneur, but I really think that being in the JADS environment was the last push I needed. You are constantly surrounded by inspiring entrepreneurs, so it is very easy to start something yourself too!”

“Currently, Brush AI has an office within JADS, so we’ll be around for a while. I do really hope that we as Brush AI can keep on closely collaborating with JADS, that would be a perfect way for us to give back to the community that we really benefited from!” “When I look back at my studies at JADS, the one word to describe it is ‘gezellig’ (cozy). JADS has a very tight community. When I first started my Master’s studies here, it was such a big contrast compared to the community at a way larger and less personal university, where I did my Bachelor’s. (Teaching) staff is super approachable and whenever you have questions or concerns, there is aways someone to help out!”

Case: Better personnel planning based on weather expectations

For several years Bakery & Lunchroom Royal in Den Bosch had been working with a system in which all transactions are stored. Based on these data over the past five years, students from the MKB Datalab worked out a professional data model that predicts the influence of the weather conditions on turnover and personnel planning. This way, the bakery could achieve an optimal personnel planning to realize cost reductions. Based on data, a form was created. Filling in the weather forecast (temperature, sun and rainfall) for the next 3 days, the form returns an estimate of the turnover. Royal was now able to schedule the optimal amount of staff. A surprising finding was that up until a temperature of 25 degrees, turnover went up, but above that temperature turnover went down. Apparently, people find other activities more attractive when the weather gets too hot.

“JADS is a hidden gem”

After finishing, with honors, the Data Expert program at JADS, Sven van Egmond started in a new position as Data Lead at DPG Media and worked on the roll-out and valuation of DPG network. This involved harmonization of data infrastructure as well as a strategy on the optimization of network effects. The professional education at JADS made it possible to grow into his current job, Head of Data at DPG as of August 2022.

DPG Media employs a wide range of data specialists that work on use cases for marketing, advertising and editorial insights. Sven: “We are constantly on the lookout for knowledge and talented people. This is the primary reason we invest in our relationship with JADS. In addition to the sponsorship of two PhD programs, DPG Media supports with datasets and guest lectures.” “The JADS formula, the mix of technology (TU/e) and economics (Tilburg University), is unique in the world, I think. However, JADS is still too modest. Their beautiful story is a hidden gem.” And: “The need for a well-functioning democracy has never been more important. Reliable information and independent media are crucial. For me, at the end of the day, that’s what makes my work at DPG Media meaningful.”

Data discussions at the dinner table

Frits de Raad and his son Koen both studied at JADS. Frits participated in a professional education program, Koen did the Master Data Science and Entrepreneurship.

Frits, founder of Data Council, experienced the struggle with data in previous jobs. During the Data Expert Program did his passion grew to put new data technology into practice. This
JADS experience made him decide to start his own business, help other companies to apply the possibilities of data. He is now affiliated with JADS as a practitioner as well, training
professionals and supervising participants in the professional education program.

Frits: “Data Counsel works closely with the TU/e and Tilburg University, which are united in JADS and with whom we have a partnership. This guarantees high quality and access to the
latest knowledge and techniques for our clients.”

Koen: “Always make sure to validate your assumptions in a thorough way. This is something that is emphasized during the Master courses but also during the machine learning related
courses.” At the dinner table father and son regularly discuss data science techniques and their implications. “These discussions tend to be completely incomprehensible and boring for others. But what can you expect, both of us share a passion for data science.”

“On a scale up to ten in the evaluation, we get back an eight or nine.”

Maaike Blok, JADS alumna, completed her Master’s degree and now is working at the JADS MKB Datalab. And currently, along with Matthijs Bookelmann, leads the four-member team there. Activities include the intake of SME requests and their clear demarcation, writing the final project proposal, recruiting Master students who will carry out the implementation, the final delivery and the administration involved in the whole process.

“I do not have a 9-to-5 job. I like to switch quickly between different tasks and love to put out fires. I have a very instructive but also responsible job, inwhich I want to grow even further. I really enjoy the work and enjoy the companies’ successful results. A government subsidy scheme is being worked on to roll out the concept at other universities as well.”
For small companies, the digital transition is difficult but necessary. They often lack the right technical knowledge to create added value with their own data, for themselves and for their customers. “We help MKBs determine the first step towards a more data-driven way of working, so they can keep up with developments and become more future-proof.”

“Businesses often want a lot, so it is important to define their questions well. Our Master’s students carry out their project proposals independently in their own companies, which they register with the Chamber of Commerce. They spend an average of one day a week doing this as a paid side job. They are responsible for the implementation, which falls outside the curriculum.” Some 250 projects have now been carried out, involving 135 MKBs. “This means that half of the businesses come back and were satisfied apparently. On a scale up to 10 in the evaluation, we get back an 8 or 9.”

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