Are you eager to learn how to use your academic knowledge and skills to make societal impact? Do you want to solve societal and ecological issues? Are you convinced that your PhD-brainpower can crack complex challenges? Join the SMO Promovendi Programme and put your academic skills and knowledge into practice!

Societal and ecological challenges in a rapidly changing world demand a revision of the role of the academic community. Nowadays communicating with industry practitioners, valorization and making societal impact are deemed increasingly important. While it is recognized that PhD-students are successful in obtaining specialist knowledge, they often lag behind when it comes to developing (practical) professional skills. The SMO Promovendi Programme provides PhD-students an opportunity to obtain the skills necessary to turn into action and transform themselves into entrepreneurial scientists.


The SMO Promovendi Programme, an initiative designed by PhD-students for PhD-students, is designed to build a bridge between the academic world and the industry. Over a period of one year, PhD-students throughout the Netherlands with a multitude of academic backgrounds work within multidisciplinary teams on complex societal challenges. These students are all inherently motivated to make a positive impact on today’s society through the means of their research. The SMO Promovendi Programme helps participants in developing the career skills and the necessary network to make this impact possible. Currently, the programme has witnessed three completed one-year cycles, in which the candidates have done tremendous work within Healthcare and the Circular Economy. The current group of PhD-students is working on challenges in healthcare and the circular economy.

During a cycle of one year, SMO Promovendi form a crucial component in a multi-actor network, in which they approach a wicked societal challenge within topics such as healthcare and the circular economy. Within the first six months, the PhD-students conduct research within this large multi-actor network. During the remaining six months, both the participating organisations and the PhD-students work closely together to transform the research results into concrete solutions. Ultimately, the solutions will be tested through means of a pilot, resulting in a validated, innovative method/product addressing a societal/ecological challenge.


Being part of the SMO Promovendi enables you to work towards developing your competencies, network and knowledge. As a participant, you get the freedom to model the programme in line with your own wishes and learning goals. Furthermore, you receive coaching and training by experts, project managers and entrepreneurs. In addition, you gain access to a wide network of innovative start-ups, top companies and government institutes.


We are looking for PhD candidates who are:

  • Widely interested in societal matters
  • Enthusiastic and proactive in undertaking a project;
  • Team players;
  • Interested in working within multidisciplinary teams;
  • Keen to expand their professional and practical skills
  • Open-minded in interaction with different stakeholder
  • Able to commit to 12-15 hours per month over a one-year period;


Phase 1: Orientation and linking

The programme is kicked-off with an exciting workshop weekend, which allows you to get acquainted with fellow candidates, to meet with social enterprises and corporates, and to get introduced to SMO’s activities. Furthermore, candidates will attend in-depth training and working sessions, as well as the opportunity to outline an approach in which you formulate your personal learning goals. This is the moment in which you and the matched organization formulate the research question.

Phase 2: Exploring the network

SMO Promovendi learn to conduct a network analysis and/or system analysis by applying this technique in the collection of information for their project. You will learn how to write popular science literature by writing short pieces aimed at the public during the course of their project. These articles will appear on numerous platforms, such as scientific blog-sites. During this phase, the SMO Promovendi will also be linked to the study project and the stakeholders within that project. Furthermore, they get acquainted with practice by assisting on a range of projects at SMO for private and public partners. Optional supplementary training courses are offered.

Phase 3: Creative Valorisation & Implementation

After 6 months the second workshop weekend takes place. Aside from sharing the research findings and struggles so far (which are also discussed throughout every group session), the SMO Promovendi implement the research-based tool in the specific context. The SMO Promovendi translate their newly gained knowledge into a practical activation tool in a creative way. This can take on different forms, from a workshop to an app or product.

Phase 4: Transfer skills

Together with the multiple stakeholders involved, the SMO Promovendi develop a strategy to present the findings of the pilot through means of a large event. When the programme has finished, the SMO Promovendi stay connected to the SMO community as alumni. In this role, they can take part in events as experts and act as a sounding board for the new group of PhD-students.


SMO aims to recruit the most qualified and motivated PhD candidates to ensure the quality and diversity of the SMO Promovendi Programme.

The SMO Promovendi Programme 2018-2019 has kicked-off: 25 PhD candidates have seen selected! This means that you are no longer able to participate in this year’s programme. However, SMO is very much open to work with PhD candidates in other ways so please feel free to contact if you are interested. Further, keep track of the website and LinkedIn of SMO to find out about upcoming projects and next year’s SMO PhD Programme!

The application procedure for this year’s programme includes creative motivation, interview and a case-day. We would like to invite you to send a motivation in the format in which you can express yourself best. This might be a powerpoint, video, a poem, an infographic or whatever means you see fit. If you feel like a regular cover letter is best for you, that is also very fine. In any case, please make sure you will answer the following questions:

– Who are you? (hobbies, interests, personality)
– What role do you take in a group?
– What achievements are you most proud of?
– What would you like to learn from the SMO Promovendi Programme?
– What type of activities get you energized?
– What pisses you off in the world?
Please make sure to also include your topic preference (first and second choice). The topics are Healthcare & Wellbeing, Circular Economy and Labourmarket & Income.