Isabelle’s background

Isabelle Reymen has a degree in architecture from KU Leuven in Belgium, a PhD and Postdoc in Design Sciences at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). She worked for four years as an Assistant Professor in University of Twente and then subsequently returned to TU/e, where she coordinated all entrepreneurship courses and works now as a professor Design of Innovation Ecosystems. In 2017 she established the TU/e Innovation Space, where she currently works as Scientific Director.

As part of her job, within TU/e innovation Space community, she develops and facilitates interdisciplinary hands-on challenge-based learning, engineering design and entrepreneurship. Isabelle, through TU/e offers a place where students learn to deal with complex societal and industrial challenges, develop innovative projects with researchers, businesses, and other stakeholders. Furthermore, it provides a space and support for lecturers that develop and offer hands-on courses and want to contribute to innovation in education.

What is the role of the Spanning Boundaries Agent in the context of UBC?

Isabelle was involved into the development of TU/e Innovation Space from its very inception, by designing and building the concept from scratch. In 2017, the centre started from a small space that has grown into a space of 1500 square metres in one of the central buildings of TU/e. In essence, TU/e Innovation Space is a hybrid concept that represents a mix of:

  • An expertise centre for all activities in challenge-based learning and student entrepreneurship on campus,
  • A learning hub for education innovation,
  • An open community of students, researchers, industry and societal organizations.

Which expertise or skills are necessary to be a Spanning Boundaries Agent?

According to Isabelle there is number of skills that Spanning Boundaries Agents should consider. To start with, the ability to listen to others, be empathetic and understand basic human psychology is key, since Spanning Boundaries Agents have to deal with people on a daily basis. Persistence and perseverance are also of key importance, due to the number of barriers that Spanning Boundaries Agents need to deal with.

Additionally, it is crucial to be willing to continuously learn and experiment – it is essential for Spanning Boundaries Agents to expand their knowledge and to increasingly upgrade their skills by taking experimental approaches and by guiding the people surrounding them to do the same. Similarly, it is important to be able to reflect critically on challenges, successes, events and potential future improvements.

Finally, Spanning Boundaries Agents need to have a collaboration and co-creation mindset, defined as a positive attitude towards open cooperation and value co-creation that will benefit all involved stakeholders.

What is the ideal organisational environment for Spanning Boundaries Agents?

There are several key resources needed to make it possible to Span Boundaries effectively. Primarily, human capital – it is helpful to have an entrepreneurial team with diverse skill sets, open minds and the ability to learn and experiment. It is also necessary to have the time to get involved with such initiatives, academic Boundary Spanning Agents in particular, require additional time beyond their hours dedicated to teaching and research. Physical space is also of key importance. The Innovation Space at TU/e is embracing its place-based approach and scaling quickly – it is important to have a big enough space on campus to let these activities unfold. Finally, it is no doubt that financial resources are necessary for the success of boundary spanning activities, however, Isabelle stresses that with the right mindset, the resources can easily be acquired.