Born in Nijmegen, where he currently lives, the 26-year-old Luuk de Waard says he is proud of his hometown’s cultural heritage, the oldest city in The Netherlands. Out of his love for getting people together and making sure they have a good time, Luuk helps with the promotion of the Drum&Bass festival Fiber, organized by his friends periodically. As he explains, “These friends of mine started the festival, and one of them is a DJ. It was something minimal and now we get the biggest venue in Nijmegen.” Unfortunately, following the current social restrictions scenario, the usually bi-monthly electronic music parties are not being held.
Luuk started his education in the hospitality area. At some point, however, he realized that his true interest was not there. “I started my education as a bartender. But I didn’t finish it because it had not been my passion for a long time. I was very young, and I was figuring out what I really wanted,” he says. Luuk quit the hospitality training and started working for a sales company: that was the cue for his interest in business to emerge. Influenced by a co-worker and with more life repertoire to choose from, Luuk resumed his studies path in business innovation. As he disclosures, “when he told me about it, I thought, ‘that’s really nice!’ I like to renew things; I like to get people together and create beautiful things. Being very creative, but with a spice of business on top: that was something that I enjoyed. That’s when I enlisted for this education, and that’s what I’ve been doing for four years now.”
Luuk says that his academic course follows a process, instead of having a final thesis. The idea is to come up with an innovation assignment. As he explains, “in innovation, there is a term called Fuzzy Front End: the place at the start of innovation where it is not very clear what you are doing. For us, that is good because we get to talk to many different people, do some research, study how to co-create, what the steps involved are, etc. The longer you do your research, the clearer it becomes what you must do. You learn through the process.” Luuk’s assignment was to develop an innovative solution for a company’s demand. That is when Ericsson came into the picture: “Ericsson employs me,” he says, “but I have the entire 5G Hub ecosystem for my research.”
For Luuk, the 5G Hub is a unique initiative as corporates collaborate in a co-creation model. As he sees, companies want to have more insight on how to organize teams together in such a fashion because this is not a common strategy. Furthermore, it can be difficult for them to figure out a way to create real value in this environment. Enters Luuk’s research: “What I am trying to get out of this innovation assignment is something that has real value, something that can be worked together with the community in a way that people can be inspired,” he explains. Taking advantage of the 5G Hub’s environmental complexity, his assignment’s theme revolves around getting insight into the value of co-creation and what that can tell about a company.
Luuk has interviewed many people from different companies and countries. One of his most important research insights was that they did not have a deeper understanding of what co-creation could mean. As his graduation assignment, Luuk had to figure out ways to create a higher engagement and attract more startups and companies to the 5G Hub ecosystem. According to him, the best possible outcome is that they would work together in a use case. That was where the 5G Innovation Challenge came into the picture.
Starting with an idea by Stefan Krijnen, one of Luuk’s advisors, and with the contribution of several members of the 5G Hub team, Luuk started the development of the 5G Innovation Challenge. In a gamification pattern, the virtual event will help people network and improve their business cases. In the end, those prototypes that get to the finals will receive a prize, in the form of a development program or maybe an investment. As he remarks, “we’re trying to develop a serious online game for the startups that are joining the Innovation Challenge.” Participants will be able to create an avatar to use on their profile, which will have a business case with a prototype. They can also join online training sessions, chat in the virtual lounge, improve their business cases, and comment on other prototypes.
As part of Luuk’s advisors’ team, Lennart Koorevaar points out that “in his assignment, Luuk had to deal with different organizations, each with their own vision and priorities. He proved his strength in bringing these visions together into one shared point of view, translating this into an innovative idea of a ‘Virtual Accelerator’.” Currently, the project’s leading person is Senna Kloosterman. For her, “Luuk can think out of the box and focus on the desires of the end-users.” Responsible for organizing all the challenge requirements, Robert Provoost is the project manager for the challenge. According to him, “Luuk’s approach in taking ‘serious gaming’ theories and principles can serve as a basis for his work. This process has been eye-opening to me and very much interesting.”
As Luuk explains, there is a certain amount of time and a substantial investment necessary to fully develop a game. Therefore, due to the schedule constraints of a graduation assignment, the team decided that Luuk would create a concept that could be done individually. This means that it can be done next to the Innovation Challenge. “My goal is to develop a design for a profile and a sketch of how the online game should look. Then, I write an implementation strategy,” he remarks.
Luuk is very proud of his research at the 5G Hub. For him, 5G and all the different use cases involved in the project are really unique and new. “I’m working at a place where I really can get to see what’s happening in the world,” he celebrates, “and I am very proud of it.”
Luuk says he enjoys the opportunity of connecting people, inspiring, and informing them about the range of possibilities 5G has to offer. As he explains, once at the 5G Hub, people leave with new insights into what this new technology can mean for their businesses and their lives. “I enjoy bringing people together and making sure that everyone has a good time. That’s my passion, next to my internship. So, I see a lot of aspects of that flowing over in my research. Making sure that everyone is coming out of the experience better than they were before. That’s why I am proud to say that I am establishing a bridge between a very hard-to-understand technology and the people, improving quality of life with it,” he states.
In 2019, for his minor, and accompanied by some colleagues, Luuk created an innovation assignment for Ericsson. The startup idea was very well received by the company, as well as by Vodafone. During the opening of the 5G Hub in January 2020, Luuk and his group of fellow students presented the assignment during a VIP demo tour arranged for the leadership teams of various companies. Luuk says he felt immediately hooked by the number of people attending the event and admired how Stefan Krijnen would go about describing the project. As such, “after the presentation, I just tapped him on the shoulder, and I was like: ‘hey, do you have a graduation research for me?’ That’s how I came here,” he remembers. From his side, Stefan’s first impression of the talented student was also very positive: “Luuk presented the results of his project with a lot of flair and when he told me he was looking for a graduation assignment, it felt like a good match. One of the key pillars of the 5G Hub is giving talent room to grow, and with much pleasure, I have seen Luuk seize this opportunity”.
For Luuk, the experience of being part of the 5G Hub’s team has been nice and open. He describes the 5G Hub as “a great place to be” and adds: “When I see all the things that are happening there, it inspires me also to do my best.”
Luuk states that he would like to work in a startup environment after his graduation and mentions the innovation assignment developed with his colleagues. Their plan is to develop their startup project as soon as they all graduate. “Maybe in a couple of years, I will have my own company, powered by Ericsson and Vodafone. I would like to work for myself. But seeing what I am doing now, I can also happily work for big companies. We’ll see.”