Maastricht University’s Service Science Factory: Boosting Employability while Innovating

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In this article, UIIN – Lehigh University Iacocca Scholars Brian Arita and Elliot Gilliam share with the UIIN readers their impressions of their visit to Maastricht University Service Science Factory (SSF), and conversations with Sabine Janssen, Head of SSF, on the launch and vision of the center, and activities carried out.

The Service Science Factory (SSF) was founded in 2010 by professor Gaby Odekerken-Schröder and Professor Jos Lemmink, who were inspired by how the most successful names in industry differentiate themselves from their competition. The founders found that the largest companies focus not only on improving their products, by also their services. In an ever-changing age of technology innovation and optimization, companies need to be flexible and offer services that are up to par with their consumer needs. Prof. Odekerken-Schröder and Lemmink also realized that you have to find a way to work with external entities to truly create innovation. It is with this recognition that the founders initiated the Service Science Factory (SSF).

SSF is part of the UMIO[1], the Business School of Maastricht University. UMIO performs executive education for companies and individual professionals. UMIO is one of the key gateways of Maastricht University to valorize the knowledge and for businesses to engage with executive education services of Maastricht University. UMIO has three areas of expertise: human side of business, service innovation and sustainable finance.

SSF in brief

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SSF is a coalition of some of the brightest minds in academia that have a focus on innovating services. SSF acts as a consultant for external organizations which involves the students in the process for 8 to 12 weeks. When the initiative was proposed, the faculty board accepted it with the hopes to valorize knowledge, create impact for institutions and organisations in the region and beyond.  One of the key pillars SSF provides value is that it evolved to be a center of collaboration with companies & students looking to develop their skills while solving real-life organizational problems.

Building upon the expertise of its staff as well as applying design thinking approach, SSF modernizes services offered by companies. SSF uses design thinking as a tool to analyze company’s current services from an outsider perspective. SSF also provides training to employees on how to use design thinking to maintain the new services offered by SSF, along with involving the students in the process of solving the companies’ problems. SSF’s funding comes from the fees for each project and executive training programmes.. In total, the initiative has worked with 50 different companies on over 60+ projects in ten different sectors.

Working with companies

So far, SSF has collaborated and consulted outstanding companies such as Siemens, Volkswagen, and Canon. Siemens hired SSF to help them implement customer-centric approach and establish more open communication on all levels. SSF accomplished this by using their Seek- Shape- Factorize model to break down the problems given to them. The SSF model uses “Seek” which is gathering research and data for a project, shape which optimizes the research into potential solutions, and factorizes which is the phase which brings the ideas into reality. In the “Seek” phase Siemens conducted an interview of 20 different employees to collect the information on the communication patterns within the company. The “Shape” phase resulted in the creation of a flow chart depicting how communication flow occurred at Siemens. SSF factorize their findings by creating a scenario-based game for Siemens employees that highlighted current problems the company was facing. The game presented a quick way for employees to learn about current problems in the company by placing them in scenarios that depict the structure of the company.

Involving the students

SSF involves the students of all faculties of Maastricht University, who are interested in developing their business & problem solving skills. Students who want to participate in the ongoing or future projects send in their resume and a motivation letter, and are selected through an assessment procedure.

Additionally, SSF hosts several events, workshops, and competitions that attract talent to be molded into business professionals. Popular events such as Challenge X, hosted by SSF with business partner Jules Group, are focused on encouraging students in solving industry problems that benefit society.  Last year’s challenge at the event tasked students with reshaping the inner cities of Limburg to make them more attractive for the youth, the province where Maastricht is located, and making them ideal for people aged 17-25. Students that get involved with these events gain access to real world collaboration and networking skills further supplemented by Maastricht University problem based learning model.

For more information about Service Science Factory (SSF) please see the links below:

 

[1] https://www.umio.nl/about/umio/

Images credit: Maastricht University Service Science Factory (SSF)