Interview with Ben Hendricks, Ron van de Bekerom and Djordi Straaks about the collaboration of students from Fontys Venlo and VVV Venlo in a Crosslab project.
The aim is to jointly develop an innovation platform for the Venlo football club.
What is a Crosslab project?
Ben Hendricks (Crosslab coordinator Fontys Venlo): Crosslab once started as a small pilot with one or two projects. Meanwhile, it has grown to 16 Crosslabs starting in September and 4 Crosslabs starting in February. The aim is to link second-year students to companies and organisations one day a week for a year. Crosslab is part of the topic ‘start-up entrepreneurship’. Students from all study programmes can apply to the Crosslabs. Second-year students who have just finished their propaedeutic year are very enthusiastic, driven and open-minded. They are not your average students. Within the Crosslabs, the students receive a coach from Fontys – that would be me – and a company mentor from the company. In the case of the Crosslab with VVV, Ron is the company mentor.
How did the cooperation start?
Ron van den Bekerom (VVV Venlo Manager Business Development): During a meeting of our VVV Business Club with Entrepreneurial Venlo, I came into contact with Fontys through its director, Bram ten Kate. As a football club, we have the ambition to position ourselves prominently in the region. We have had good contacts with Fontys in the past and the story of Crosslab was a great opportunity to intensify the cooperation.
What is the purpose of the Crosslab with VVV?
Ron: Establishing an innovation platform with, among others, PSV Eindhoven and FC Utrecht as examples. The cooperation with Brainport and the topic ‘Healthiest Region’ also play a role in this. The students are given the assignment to look into the existing innovation platforms, to investigate the development of the cooperation between Brainport and PSV Eindhoven, and to include the subject ‘Healthiest Region’. Ultimately, they will answer the question: What can we learn from the examples for our own innovation platform?
What is an innovation platform?
Ron: It is a combination of a technical tool and a substantive cooperation. Within VVV we have several challenges and ambitions, such as a new stadium and a new training facility. We want to use the innovation platform to attract partners who can help us with the separate projects. The innovation platform should then become the umbrella under which all these projects are realised. At the moment, there are four specific assignments that are further developed.
What are the four innovation projects?
Ron: The actual projects mainly come from the students’ proposals and the needs of VVV as a company/organisation. One of the projects revolves around improving the daily practice of the players. How can we engage forces to improve the performance of the youth academy and the first team? A second project is a new sports campus. This project is already in progress behind the scenes. The focus is on a new training location for our youth academy and, with a new stadium on the way, it could also serve as a training location for our first team. Another project can be described as Jumbo Corporation Food Sponsoring. Food plays a major role within the Healthiest Region and in top-level sport. The last project is the expansion of cooperation between VVV and Fontys Venlo: What are the opportunities for further cooperation?
How do you experience the cooperation with the students?
Ron: The cooperation with the students is very good. Unfortunately, because of Corona, we now work together remotely most of the time. It is a very enthusiastic group, but they are also still beginning students. These young people go through a huge learning curve in a project like this. Nevertheless, they help us a lot by working things out for us. These young students bring talents and capacities that we do not have ourselves; in a general sense, but also when it comes to specific issues. They come from very different educational backgrounds, and we can benefit enormously from their knowledge. We see so much potential in the project that we want to bring it back in the form of a permanent cooperation.
Why does VVV seek – as you mentioned earlier – more cooperation in the region?
Ron: We have always had this ambition because we depend on companies and fans in the region. Without the loyal fans and companies, a football club has no right to exist. Of course, there are also companies in the region that are not or less interested in football, and we try to appeal to them with our social foundation.
Are you looking for new employees through internships?
Djordi Staaks ((VVV Venlo Account Manager): We already work quite a lot with trainees from different colleges. We see a lot of potential in the students, and we can already research the labour market in this way. Companies are having increasing difficulty finding suitable staff. An internship is often a good opportunity for students to get to know a company.