If Opportunity Doesn't Knock, Build A Door!

Blogger: Kelly Ackermans, MSc. • 15 Nov 2019

After I finished my Masters, I knew two things; I wanted to help solve societal issues and I wanted to do something with science! TNO's traineeship immediately caught my eye, as it is the best of both worlds! You have the opportunity to fulfil different roles (e.g. scientist, business developer, project leader or consultant) in different fields of expertise, and I wanted to try them all!

So let's have a look at my trainee journey!

Within the Defence, Safety and Security field of TNO, one of the departments focuses on Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Protection. The department has a High Tox laboratory, it’s the only facility in the Netherlands allowed to produce and handle Chemical Warfare Agents (CWA's). As a graduated chemist with a specialization in 'Molecular Design, Synthesis and Catalysis', you can probably imagine that working as a scientist for 8 months in this department, was a great opportunity!

After the first 8 months, it was time to choose my second spot. One of my internal drivers in life is 'pushing boundaries'—so why wouldn't I try something completely new, in a field that I am only partly familiar with? During the traineeship, you're challenged to try roles you've never done before. So let's meet the business developer in me!

As a business developer, you're responsible for a certain roadmap. In my case, the roadmap was 'Towards an Energy-Producing Built Environment'. In order to meet the climate agreements in Paris, it’s crucial to make all the necessary preparations to accelerate the large-scale renovation of existing buildings. For 8 months, I was searching for new business opportunities, trying to maintain extensive knowledge of the current market conditions, building up new key-customer relationships, negotiating and closing deals to achieve this long-term strategic mission. My time spent as a business developer resulted in many different opportunities and was a perfect way to get to know myself, in sometimes difficult situations.

As a result of this spot, I have learned a lot about the different styles of communication, the interests of different parties and how to consciously experience the phases you go through in a (business) conversation. As a scientist, you're mainly focused on the development of technological solutions, whereas a business developer is focused on what the market needs to solve societal problems. Two different spots, with different roles, views, and opportunities, and now it was time for another one. I wanted a fitting follow up my first two spots. A spot where I could follow a technological innovation on its way towards the market! Where could I find this within TNO?

Well, within the Corporate Strategy Department of TNO, a dedicated team focuses on Technology Transfer. The Technology Transfer program was developed to reduce the time needed to bring TNO’s innovations to the market. This is usually executed via spin-offs or by licensing IP to existing companies. The aim is to get more research translated into practical applications in society. Currently, I am looking into best practices of TechTransfer (and entrepreneurial) awareness and scouting processes at different European Research and Technology Organizations (RTOs) like Fraunhofer (Germany), CEA (France) and VTT (Finland). At the end of my traineeship, I want to develop a successful program that focuses on the screening and scouting processes of new Technology Transfer cases within TNO. A nice challenge and a good opportunity to get the best out of myself!

And what about life after the traineeship? Well, we shall see what the future brings!

About the author

Name: Kelly Ackermans
Background: Chemistry
Start Date: February 2018

1st Spot Scientist; Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Protection, Rijswijk
2nd Spot: Business Developer; Energy Transition, Roadmap; Towards an energy-producing environment
3rd Spot: Project Leader/Consultant; Tech Transfer, The Hague


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