From PhD to SME 2020: 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 Schools Office and Postdoc Career Development Office)


This intensive programme will count as one specialist course and three seminars in transferable skills (Career Management + Leadership and Personal Efficiency + Communication Skills).

Target group

Members of the Doctoral Schools + postdocs


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


Dr Katrien De Gelder (Doctoral Schools Office, Ghent University)

Lore Ott & Arne Oosthuyse (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 for the 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 practice.

Participants are given a chance to gain first-hand (leadership) experience in a Flemish SME in order to increase their hiring potential and smooth 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?

Closing event 2019 + Information session 2020

Slides of the information session

The information session about the 2020 edition of 'From PhD to SME' will be organised on 6 November 2019 at 17:30 in the Ceremoniezaal, Aula, Voldersstraat 9 , 9000 Gent. This information session will be followed by the wrap event of the 2019 edition. This closing event is open to all, but potential participants in the 2020 edition will find it particularly enlightening, as there will be testimonials from companies and researchers who participated in the 2018-2019 edition of 'From PhD to SME'.

  • 17u30 Information session 2020
  • 18u15 Sandwiches and refreshments
  • 19u Closing event 2019
    • Welcome by Arne Oosthuyse (Voka)
    • Team presentations by participants from Ghent University
    • Panel discussion with researchers turned entrepreneurs
    • Award ceremony & closing words by Rik Van De Walle (UGent)
    • 21u-22u Networking reception

Registration for this event is closed.


The programme will run from February 2020 until December 2020.

It consists of the following components:

  • a full-day kick off on 18/02
  • 6 modules consisting each of a half-day theoretical session, a practical assignment in an SME, combined with a half-day intervision session

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 other officers 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 four 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


Registration has closed.

Preselected candidates will receive an invitation for a selection interview to take place in the week of 20 January 2020 or 27 January 2020. Applicants will be able to indicate preferred interview date(s) on their registration form.

Registration fee

Free of charge

Number of participants




Evaluation methods and criteria (doctoral training programme)

100% participation