From PhD to SME 2019: a 1-year leadership programme developed by Voka

For the current edition, please visit the "From PhD to SME 2020" website.


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 1-2 years of research experience.


Dr Dieter De Bruyn (Doctoral Schools Office, Ghent University)

Marjolein Haan & 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 programme (incl. lots of practical information) will be organised on Wednesday 12 September 2018 at 18:30 in Auditorium 0.3 André Vlerick, Tweekerkenstraat 2, 9000 Gent.


The programme will run from October 2018 until November 2019. 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.

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

Applications (incl. a motivation statement) can be submitted using this registration form: Please note that applications are due before Monday 17 September 2018 at 9 am.

Preselected candidates will receive an invitation for a selection interview to take place on Thursday 27 September or Friday 5 October 2018. Applicants can already indicate their preferred date(s) on the registration form.

Registration fee

Free of charge

Number of participants




Evaluation methods and criteria (doctoral training programme)

100% participation