Looking back on 2019: Jelgar de Wilde from the zone EdTech
The first year of the Acceleration Plan is over. In a series of interviews we look back on 2019 with the leaders of the zones. In this edition: Jelgar de Wilde, from Inholland University of Applied Sciences, leader of the zone Accelerating educational innovation with EdTech.
What were your expectations when you took over as the new team leader of the zone?
I expected to get on a moving train. As innovation manager at Inholland, I knew the main objective of the Acceleration Zone. One of the plans is to create a framework for other institutions. What do you have to take into account when working with EdTech companies and startups that want to grow? Think of purchasing processes, the GDPR, internal coordination … Of course, every educational institution is different, but we can still develop advice for them to fit different scenarios. I expected it to be difficult to get it right on paper and indeed, that is the case.
What surprised me in a positive sense, is the validation lab. It is running smoother than I expected beforehand. In the past year, eight startups took part in our validation lab. Six of them now have contacts in higher education outside their launching customer, to explore what they can do for each other.
What did you do in 2019?
I only joined the team in November, but last year the Acceleration Zone explored the issues concerning the adoption of educational technology within educational institutions. The team delivered a maturity model. Also, a number of themes emerged that require further elaboration, in particular concerning purchasing and legal issues. These are the biggest obstacles that we want to give advise on in 2020.
What are you proud of?
I’m proud of the validation lab. During an intensive ten-week programme, experienced EdTech entrepreneurs take startups under their wings. That is very valuable. And the fact that more and more institutions realise that the higher education sector must do something with EdTech. This is partly because the Acceleration Zone has brought it to the attention with hackathons, gatherings, and a Dragons’ Den event. We will continue with these kinds of events in the coming year.
What went less well than you would have hoped?
I would have liked that we had gotten a bit further with a communication kit to open up the conversation about innovation strategies within institutions. Also, some things about the zone appear to be unclear to the outside world. The zone is not an innovation lab. We are not going to develop EdTech products for institutions ourselves. We look at whether a company that has a good idea and a launching customer has the potential to grow. We jointly determine the potential in the validation lab.
Institutions should consider whether they want to help good ideas mature. Are they willing to act as a launching customer? To put the product on the market? To guide student startups in expanding their market to other customers? This innovation strategy must be developed and embraced within the institution. We will focus more on this in the coming year.
Is there also something that the Acceleration Team should do less in 2020?
We should talk less. Less theory, more practice. We make advisory scenarios about the obstacles institutions will encounter in their innovation strategy, but we cannot remove the obstacles for them. The institutions must make their own choices. The higher education sector tends to buy a standard product and then expect it to be custom made for the same price. It doesn’t work like that. If you choose not to be very innovative and not to be at the frontlines, but only to use proven technology, for example, then you get what you buy and you have little influence on changes in the product or service that you buy.
Are you on the right track to achieving your ambitions for 2020?
Yes. We are increasingly being presented with candidates for the validation labs. So we will run two labs in 2020. Entrepreneurs ask if they can take on a mentorship. The movement and mindset are there. We also want to set up a Tripadvisor-like environment, with which an educational institution can easily discover how to deal with an EdTech company and vice versa. It could contain contacts, for example, and the change strategy of the institutions. A first prototype has been made by students from Fontys University of Applied Sciences. This is creating increasing awareness about EdTech among students and staff.
By 2022, we will be able to substantiate various innovation strategies. Ultimately, an institution has to manage this itself, but we offer the tools to arrive at a well-founded choice.
In ten years’ time, what will we see from what the Acceleration Zone is currently developing?
I hope that a lively community has been created, which adopts ideas that arise within institutions, but which are not taken any further by institutions or individuals. The best thing would be if we had designed a European EdTech Initiative in ten years’ time. As Europeans, we look at educational technology from a different angle. We may not always be able to compete with massive investments that are spent in the United States or with mass production from the East, but we can add something: interpretation of ethical and moral questions. I believe in working with the tech giants and making changes from within, rather than fighting against them.