From PhD to SME: 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)

For the new edition, please visit the ‘From PhD to SME 2023’ website.


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 Schools Office, Ghent University)
Jolyn De Baets & Arne Oosthuyse (VOKA Oost-Vlaanderen)


Frank De Craecker


Around 80% of our (post)doctoral researchers continue their careers beyond academia. Business careers are however completely different from academic career paths: one typically works in a rapidly changing context and has to take considerable risks, the focus is on attitude rather than knowledge, one works together with different kinds of profiles, etc.
Ghent University and VOKA (Flanders’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry) 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 thus smoothen their transition to the non-academic labour market. In addition, they build a dynamic, formal as well as informal network and 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

The official launch of the 2023 edition (incl. practical information) will be organised online on Tuesday 6 December  2022 (09:00-10:30). Register here for participation in this online session.

For further information check the  ‘From PhD to SME 2023’ website.


The new edition of ‘From PhD to SME’ runs from March 2023 through to November 2023. It consists of the following components:
•    a full-day kick off
•    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.

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 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

Applications (incl. a motivation statement) can be submitted as of 6 December 2022 at 12 pm using a registration form that will be made available in due time. Please note that applications are due before 5 January 2023 at 12 pm.

Registration fee

Free of charge

Number of participants




Evaluation methods and criteria (doctoral training programme)

100% participation