5.2 Organization of impact in 2021

In 2021, the former Impact and Entrepreneurship program continued to merge into the Tilburg University Knowledge Transfer Office (KTO), which was established in 2020. This section refers to the Impact. Further details on Entrepreneurship are provided in Section 6.7 Entrepreneurial Thinkers. The year 2021 was the last of the four-year Impact program. Whereas the main focus in 2020 was on strengthening internal communities and collaboration with external stakeholders within the three Impact themes, the main focus in 2021 was on bringing further focus and sustainability to the results achieved beyond the program period.

The format of the Academic Collaborative Centers/Innovation Hubs (working title) is regarded as the most suitable for this purpose. Characteristics of the Academic Collaborative Centers//Innovation Hubs include the following:

  • They are mission-driven and contribute to strengthening the profile of Tilburg University.

  • They have a clear, distinctive proposition for our researchers, students, and partners.

  • They have strong ties to education and research, and they aim to generate impact.

From Impact themes to Academic Collaborative Centers/Innovation Hubs

In 2021, roadmaps were used for the further concretization of the three Impact themes: Empowering the Resilient Society, Enhancing Health and Wellbeing, and Creating Value from Data. Based on external and internal analyses, the roadmaps depict relevant societal transitions to which Tilburg University can make a distinctive contribution, together with its partners. In addition, the further thematic delineation includes the results previously achieved in the Impact program, including the ecosystems and networks that have been developed, a presence in relevant lobbying organizations, and the systematic and structured approach to achieving impact and co-creation (i.e., the Pathway to Impact).

Commitment to Digital Sciences

The pathway for the continued development of Creating Value from Data is different from those of the other two Impact themes. In 2021, work was begun on the development of a university-wide program that will play an important role in the strategy for 2022–2027.

Impulse Fund

Efforts to ensure the sustainability of the results achieved in the Impact program in 2021 include the application of capacity and resources to develop the Academic Collaborative Centers/Innovation Hubs and to continue the development of other sub-themes, transdisciplinary, and interdisciplinary projects and communities.

The following Academic Collaborative Centers/Innovation Hubs received a financial boost from the Impact program in 2021:

  • Broad Prosperity in the Region

  • Climate and Energy Transition

  • Inclusive Labor Market

  • Digital Mental Health Innovation

In 2021, this resulted in the launch of both the Academic Collaborative Center on Broad Prosperity and the Academic Collaborative Center on the Inclusive Labor Market. The other academic collaborative centers are expected to be launched in the first half of 2022.

For the past four years, the Impact program has been systematically working to develop impact using the aforementioned Pathway to Impact. This includes events, in addition to establishing and strengthening internal communities of researchers and shaping collaborations with social partners and industry. In 2021, efforts to set up and carry out these events were substantially limited by the COVID-19 restrictions, but we tried to work within the applicable restrictions as much as possible.

  • In 2021, TAISIG (see Section 5.1 Valuable (and Values-based) Partnerships) organized monthly TAISIG Talks. This is a series of short online presentations on a wide range of topics related to recent developments and achievements of Tilburg University in the field of AI.

  • Together with Avans University of Applied Sciences, the Climate and Energy Transition Community organized the Talk Show: Making Energy Together. This interactive talk show (which could be followed both online and) addressed possibilities for energy transition in the built environment involving cooperation between citizens, housing corporations, governments, and relevant companies. This theme is extremely important, given that around eight million buildings will have switch from gas to renewable energy sources by 2050.

  • Because of situations relating to the pandemic, the Impact team worked with Studium Generale to explore ways to maintain relationships with residents in the city. Unfortunately, it was necessary to cancel the Night University this year. As an alternative, we cooperated on the ‘Tafel van Martinus’, a talk show in which we outlined a diverse overview of research at Tilburg and its impact. The event drew too few visitors to warrant its continuation.

Impact Award

This year, the Tilburg University Impact Award was presented for the second time. Through the Impact Award, the Impact team expresses its appreciation for studies that have had major social and scientific impact.

In all, 21 projects were submitted from many different disciplines and on a variety of themes. The projects were assessed for their Societal Impact and Scientific Impact. Societal Impact entails tangible effects within society. Scientific Impact is measured according to the number of publications and innovative characteristics of the research. A jury, consisting of a chair, Paulina Snijders (Vice President and member of the EB), Esmah Lahlah (Alderman for Tilburg Municipality), and Chantal Vergouw (Board President for Interpolis) assessed the studies according to these criteria. Three studies received the best ratings:

  • The Longa Via project, which centers on a study of the implementation of data-driven innovations in the infrastructure sectors

  • Spacebuzz: Creating Ambassadors of Planet Earth, which concerns the possibilities of Virtual Reality in education

  • Netspar, with the New Pension System for Dutch Citizens.

The winner of the Impact Award 2021 was the Spacebuzz project.

Contract Management for Research Projects

Beginning in 2021, Contract Management has been arranged within the KTO, with a staffing level of 1.5 FTE. The purpose of this position is to assist researchers in embedding a research project within the University or School. The KTO contract managers handle all contract matters and serve as a connecting link between other disciplines involved in the embedding, including Finance and Control, Grant Support, Legal Affairs, Human Resources, Marketing & Communication, and the Research Support Teams in the Schools. This allows for the construction of a common network and enables researchers to devote their scarce time to the core task.

Impact indicators

Table 5.3.1. Impact indicators


Individuals reached (internal and external)


Total number of participants in the Impact PhD program


Participants in the PhD Valorization Program training


Researchers in communities


Number of events


In 2020, halfway through the planned duration of the Impact program, we issued Focus on Impact: an inspiring publication containing several appealing and inspiring examples of high-impact projects and researchers. We distributed it widely (a circulation of 1,500). We obviously did not achieve the same reach in 2021. Our events were nevertheless well attended. Further details on organized activities are provided in Section 5.1 Valuable (and Values-based) Partnerships.

The Impact PhD students continued their tracks in 2021, and we provided several PhD students with the opportunity to participate in the THRIVE Valorization Program.

The communities did not experience much further growth in 2021. The final year of the Impact program was devoted primarily to making the results that have been achieved more sustainable, as well as to the continuing development of the themes.