From PhD to SME 2024: a 1-year leadership programme developed by Voka

  • This programme is a joint effort of VOKA (Flanders’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry) East Flanders and Ghent University (Doctoral School Office and Postdoc Talent Management)


This intensive programme will count as 1 specialist course and 3 seminars in transferable skills (Career Management + Leadership and Personal Efficiency + Communication Skills) in the doctoral training programme.

Target group

PhD candidates + postdocs


This programme is not designed for researchers in the earliest phase of their PhD: applicants should already have 1 to 2 years of research experience.


Dr. Katrien Daemen-de Gelder (Doctoral School Office, Ghent University)
Jolyn De Baets (VOKA Oost-Vlaanderen)


Frank De Craecker


Around 80% of our (post)doctoral researchers continue their careers beyond academia. Business careers differ from academic ones: in business, people typically work in rapidly changing contexts, take considerable risks, focus on attitude rather than on knowledge, and work together with different kinds of profiles.
Ghent University and VOKA East Flanders join forces in this exclusive 'From PhD to SME' programme, the aim of which is to build bridges between the world of research and small and medium-sized enterprises. 16 (post)doctoral researchers are given the unique opportunity to learn more about how SMEs are run and to put this knowledge into immediate practice.

Participants are given a chance to gain first-hand (leadership) experience in a Flemish SME in order to increase their hiring potential and smoothen their transition into the non-academic labour market. In addition, they'll be able to build formal as well as informal networks, and to learn to identify and name their own strengths - maybe their skills and interests match better with business life than they had ever considered?

Official launch + Information session 2024

On 11 December the content and practicalities of the new, 2024 edition of From PhD to SME were presented during an online info session.


The programme will run from March 2024 through to December 2024.

It consists of the following components:

  • a full-day kick-off on 12 March 2024 (10 AM – 3 PM)
  • 6 modules consisting each of a half-day theoretical session, a practical assignment in an SME, combined with a half-day intervision session

The dates of the 12 sessions will be shared soon:

  • 17 April 2024 - Session 1 strategic choices and achievements
  • 30 April 2024 - Session 2 intervision
  • 15 May 2024 - Session 3 leadership - primary process
  • 29 May 2024 - Session 4 intervision
  • 12 June 2024 - Session 5 structures
  • 26 June 2024 - Session 6 intervision
  • 4 September 2024 - Session 7 people
  • 18 September 2024 - Session 8 intervision
  • 2 October 2024 - Session 9 systems
  • 16 October 2024 - Session 10 intervision
  • 5 November 2024 - Session 11 culture
  • 21 November 2024 - Session 12 intervision
  • 10 December 2024 - Post-event wrap-up

Throughout the programme participants will be supervised by a coach, VOKA East Flanders, as well as the SME they collaborate with. The focus will be on an integral approach of thinking and acting.

Integral approach

A. Theoretical sessions
Participants get acquainted with all strategic and tactical dimensions of running a business (strategy, processes, people, etc.)

  • Module 1: strategic choices and achievements
  • Module 2: leadership - primary process
  • Module 3: structures
  • Module 4: people
  • Module 5: systems
  • Module 6: culture

B. Practical assignment in an SME
After each module theory will be put into practice in fixed groups of 4 participants. Each group will be matched with an SME. Based on discussions with the CEO and others within the company participants will give advice and draft an action plan to overcome the SME's strategic and operational challenges.
The 4 SMEs, selected by VOKA East Flanders, are Flemish companies which are currently facing a strategic review, or find themselves in the midst of a reorganisation as a result of rapid growth, or ... What these companies have in common is the need for external input, critical feedback and new ideas.
The 4 groups of (post)doctoral researchers will be formed beforehand in order to ensure optimal heterogeneity and complementarity.

C. Intervision: feedback & reporting on the practical experience
During the half-day intervision sessions the 4 groups will discuss their case with each other and with their coach: in this way participants will broaden their horizons and learn from the experiences collected in other SMEs.

Added value

Co-organised by a non-academic patron, 'From PhD to SME' is a high-yield opportunity for (post)doctoral researchers who are keen to gain valuable professional work experience, much sought-after by their future employers.

Course material

Course material will be made available in due time.

Registration and selection

  • Applicants are required to submit their application online
  • Registration will open on 12 December 2023 at 12 PM
  • Applications are due before 15 January 2024 at 12 PM

apply here

In case of further questions, do not hesitate to contact dr. Katrien Daemen-de Gelder.

Please read our cancellation policy.

Registration fee

Free of charge

Number of participants




Evaluation methods and criteria (doctoral training programme)

100% participation