AIHR present at Thematic University-Thematic Business Forum Helsinki
  • publication: 20 June 2016

AIHR present at Thematic University-Thematic Business Forum Helsinki

by Dr. Sjoerd Gehrels


An interesting opportunity for Stenden Hotel Management School, Academy of International Hospitality Research (AIHR) presented itself last month. Lector Sjoerd Gehrels was invited as facilitator at the Thematic University-Business Forum in Helsinki.  The entire world of work is changing as technologies transform businesses, organizations, and even entire industries. In the years to come, the world will witness disruptive moves as new ways of doing and thinking gain ground. And with disruption, we are likely to experience something new, something different. The pace of change is rapid and the key to future success lies in collaboration, networking and constant renewal which demand a new kind of resilience both from organizations and individuals. Students need to gain skills with which they can successfully navigate in the changing landscape. The European Commission provides support to universities and businesses in strengthening the knowledge triangle (education, research, innovation) through initiatives at the European level such as University-Business Forums (UBForum). UBForums facilitate the communication of good practices, encourage networking and mutual exchange of experience, and provide an environment for the creation of partnerships between higher education and business. The activities aim to encourage the transfer and sharing of knowledge, create long-term partnerships and opportunities, and drive innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity. Starting in 2008, 19 University-Business Forums have taken place, and the last edition was in March 2016 in Vienna. Six UBForums were organised in Brussels, with 12 thematic events taking place in Member States. In addition, the higher education sector is supported by HEInnovate, a self-assessment tool developed in cooperation with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for institutions to both measure and develop their innovative capabilities, and also to ‘bench-learn’ through case study resources and training material. On AIHR’s website the full outline of HEInnovate can be found as was reported earlier this year ( The most recent UBForum was hosted by Finland beginning of June, organised by Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, with the support of the European Commission Directorate General for Education and Culture, Enterprise Europe Network, Universities Finland, ARENE (Rectors' Conference of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences), and the City of Helsinki. The focus of the UBForum was ‘breaking boundaries for future careers’ and it examined two major enablers that will equip future learners to effectively identify and secure career opportunities: (1) the innovation ecosystem. In the Finnish context the government seeks to build a strong and resilient ‘infrastructure’ that links key national stakeholders through a common vision, and (2) to make learning ever more flexible and relevant to prepare learners for their future jobs. The UB Forum in Helsinki looked at innovation pedagogies, at the innovative learning that underpins them, and then how they both enable the development of innovative and entrepreneurial learners. This Thematic University-Business Forum brought together speakers from universities, companies and regions/cities who presented innovative ways in which they collaborate and promote entrepreneurship and new ways of operating in a transforming world. Students need to learn valuable, timeless and robust skills that help them thrive in their future endeavours, and potentially develop them as entrepreneurs. The aim of the UB Forum was to assist in the journey to future careers around four themes:

  1. Learn to create … aims to shed light on innovation pedagogy: what are the ways and methods by which students are exposed to creatively stimulating learning opportunities? How to approach challenges so that possible multidisciplinary and/or multicultural participants’ diverse backgrounds are best put to use?

  2. Connect the dots… brings to the stage new ways of learning and the many ways in which students learn from companies and in companies: how can we integrate companies and other organizations in the day-to-day learning activities of students – and vice versa? How do we design curricula that flexibly take new ways of learning?

  3. Build roots…focuses on ecosystems – the important, yet often overlooked role of ecosystems that create a fertile ground for new innovations, business creation and growth. The ecosystem is made up of players that take many shapes and forms: well-established or transient, large or small, but always vibrant and buzzing with energy. What are the necessary ingredients for a flourishing ecosystem? How can one attract the right players?

  4. Spread your wings… demonstrates the many faces of entrepreneurship; both as a way of learning, a goal, and a mindset. Here stories of ideas are showcased that grew into businesses (or are just hatching), and ideas that have gathered speed in the process, and are now conquering the world. Visionary and aspiring students and entrepreneurs shared their stories. What does it take to become an entrepreneur? Is entrepreneurship a state of mind? Is this just learning or more of a passion?

Based on the innovating nature of recent research projects at AIHR around employer branding, sustainability and hospitableness, Stenden HMS was asked as (the only) Dutch university of applied sciences to be actively involved in the organisation of the Helsinki Thematic University-Business Forum. This is obviously a great compliment for the research done at Stenden.