Bram Kuijken: Inspiring students to master real-world challenges

Bram Kuijken: Inspiring students to master real-world challenges
Meet the man behind Master Challenge! Image Source: Christa Romp Fotograaf

For Master Challenge CEO Bram Kuijken, entrepreneurship is about solving real-life challenges.

After completing his PhD, Bram became a University of Amsterdam Master of Entrepreneurship Professor to support student innovation.

Yet midway through teaching his modules, Bram realised that many students want to engage with real-time work projects to prepare them for the post-graduation workplace but didn't always get the opportunity to do so.

Passionate about real-world impact, Bram then proposed student-industry challenges to his personal business contacts.

''I recruited all the companies from my network and matched them to students. Everyone was happy. Students could finally put theory into practice and companies had an engaged cohort of learners that created real impact within their organisation.''

Soon after his success of matching his students' skillsets to his professional network, other lecturers began approaching Bram to source real-life challenges for their courses.

Spurred on by his students' positive feedback and his colleagues' interest in his initiative, Bram wanted to continue matching businesses to another cohort of aspiring entrepreneurs but lacked the time.

''It was very rewarding but very time-consuming to approach companies, discuss the industry challenge, match it to students and to align it to the course. I wanted to develop a solution that saves lecturers time, benefits the students and inspires industry-university collaboration.''

Introducing Master Challenge.

The Master Challenge platform, developed by experienced university lecturers, allows academics and staff to add real-life challenges to their university courses.

These challenges are offered by companies and organisations looking for solutions and they enable universities to make their courses more relevant, challenging, and engaging for their students.

One of many great collaborations that stem from Bram's company is the IKEA and Utrecht University School of Economics partnership.

As Master Challenge Business Development Manager Gioia Lelli explains:

''Through our platform, IKEA decided to get a few fresh minds of Utrecht University on-board to help with their recently launched 'co-worker co-creation' campaign. The challenging task for the students was to help analyse the campaign, suggest how to improve it and then figure out how to embed this way of working in the organisation.''

Upon completion of the challenge, both students and IKEA staff were elated. The company enjoyed having fresh perspectives for their campaign and the students loved having the opportunity to work on a high-profile project.

Img Source: Master Challenge

For the future, Bram envisions a higher education landscape that encompasses real-life challenges such as these to drive students' entrepreneurial skills to the industry forefront.

But he also wants to help align students' passions with practice.

''With the help of Master Challenge, fresh graduates will have a better idea of what they like and what kind of work they want to do. Too often I've seen students end up at organisations where they eventually leave as they're not passionate about their role. If students have more experience during their university years, then they have more bargaining power post-graduation.''

As an edupreneur (an educator who innovates), Bram's long-term goal is to go global and encourage universities outside the Netherlands to adopt the Master Challenge culture too.

By getting students to innovate early on in their studies, they'll graduate with heightened confidence in their change-making capabilities and leave with impressive additions to their work portfolios.

And for any lecturers and university staff who may be reading this, it's not only students who get to innovate! It's never too late to kickstart your ideas or solve a burning problem.

As fellow lecturer Bram advises:

''I think it's important to solve a problem, if you find a problem out there, experiment with it, validate it, entrepreneurship is about solving a problem that people care about and who are willing to support it. I set up Master Challenge while fully employed to validate the business model and now I have more time to focus on its growth.

My best advice to others is to- just do it, experiment and create value from problems you care about.''

If you wish to find out more about Master Challenge, or the challenges Bram has overcome throughout his entrepreneurial journey, reach out at or visit his website here!



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