Several student organizations in Maastricht and city representatives launched a Think Tank series on November 6th at the Maastricht Centre for Entrepreneurship to discuss possibilities for collaboration in formulating the economic vision for the city, with a specific focus on the needs of students and young entrepreneurs.
“The city of Maastricht is highly interested in stimulating entrepreneurship and offering a prosperous environment for startups,” said city officials Simone van der Steen and Pieter-Paul van de Wouw.
How to stimulate entrepreneurship in Maastricht?
Hosting over 14,000 students, Maastricht University attracts a diverse pool of talent each year and plays a big role in the city’s economic development.
“Fostering collaborations and providing students and future entrepreneurs possibilities to connect with other like-minded people is essential in creating a strong entrepreneurial community,” said Van der Steen.
The students representatives* called for more transparency with regards to initiatives, collaborations and possibilities in the region.
They said that many international students find it difficult to make it as entrepreneurs, not only because of the language barrier but also because they do not have enough resources or do not know how to find their way.
SEE Conference Chair Dorian Krimme was of the opinion that there are plenty organizations focused on helping entrepreneurs, but sometimes the information is not easily accessible, especially for internationals.
It was commonly agreed that joint efforts between these already existing organizations are very important and collaboration on a larger scale is needed to create long-term development.
Access to information
MC4E Project Coordinator Thijs Geradts raised the issue that entrepreneurs in the city do not have a physical place where they can get all the information they need in order to start up a business.
Taking the example of the Ondernemershuis in Sittard, an entrepreneurial hub where all entrepreneurs can find resources and connect with other like-minded business people, Geradts argued that such a place not only allows entrepreneurs to grow together but it also helps them apply for permits or solve financial matters.
Another essential point for entrepreneurs, said several participants, is to be able to reach mentors and investors. “If the city were to facilitate that students and young entrepreneurs might find it easier to settle down in the region,” they said. “Platforms like innoveerpunt.nl only provide limited support, because they are in Dutch.”
Some student organizations are involved in improving student life at Maastricht University. Cosima Lill, President of Enactus (former SIFE) mentioned a current project consisting in collecting and repairing all the abandoned bikes from UM Faculties, and giving them to students on Exchange programmes. The initiave aims not only to create a cleaner campus but will also allow temporary students to get easy access to bicycles.
Such projects not only help to improve the overall experience of Exchange students but also set examples for others to follow.
The MC4E offered to serve as a platform to collect all students’ feedback and input on the topic and to provide practical information for start ups.
Concluding the meeting, Van der Steen and Van de Wouw said they had noted the students’ suggestions and considered the discussion useful to understand what they can do to improve student life in Maastricht.
More stakeholders will be invited to continue the discussion in future Think Tank sessions.
*The following Maastricht University student stakeholders were present at the first Think Tank session: AIESEC President Audrey Stikkers, Enactus President Cosima Lill, Green Office Student Coordinator Maiko Schaffrath, SEE Conference Chair Dorian Krimme, Young Leader Academy Co-founder Linda Rodrigues Neves, KAIROS Fellowship Director Franziska Becker, MC4E Project Coordinator Thijs Geradts and MC4E Design, Communications and Events Coordinator Ana Mihail.
By Ana Mihail
Ana Mihail is Designer and Social Media Promoter at MC4E and a student in International Business Economics at Maastricht University.