Ulrike Mathies organises the research conducted by students: ‘Students make a real impact’

When one takes the time to look at the Ems-Dollart-region (EDR) you will quickly see this area’s potential. In addition to the beautiful landscape, the vibrant city lives and affordable living, this border region offers an excellent basis for intercultural collaboration and international trade. Nevertheless, the northern provinces are not particularly known for their opportunities on the job market. In fact, research shows that the area is actually lagging behind the rest of the Netherlands, especially when it comes to international trade by small and medium-sized enterprises. This is despite the fact that the other provinces in the Netherlands perform above average in Europe.

The departure of young graduates has a major impact on the provinces of Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe. Our eastern neighbours across the border experience similar “brain drains” in North-West Germany (Landkreise Oldenburger Land, Ostfriesland, and Emsland). And the border separating the two countries creates additional obstacles in international trade relations and cross-border entrepreneurship behaviour.

Quote: ‘Students at the International Business School of Hanze UAS are investigating why young graduates leave the region. And even more importantly, what can be done to prevent the brain drain.’

This is also one of the reasons, the Startup-EDR project was launched: to create a network to promote collaboration between different stakeholders in the northern provinces of the Netherlands and Germany for more cross-border entrepreneurship, hence also more job opportunities for young graduates. It is an ecosystem in which education, entrepreneurship and society come together, transcending borders and making a real impact. A big puzzle, in other words, in which a wide range of social and economic interests of the region are taken into account.

Quote: ‘The biggest impact for young people happens within the social dimensions of work.


One piece of that puzzle is research. As a Senior Lecturer at the Hanze International Business School (IBS), Ulrike Mathies is jointly responsible for organising the research done by the bachelor’s students at the International Business Professorship. Ulrike: ‘The research that is conducted in this region offers a unique perspective. It’s an international region in which students are specifically investigating the reasons why graduates leave and, more importantly, what would make the region and its businesses more attractive in order to prevent brain drain. Different students are studying different regions, from city to province level. They are looking at different market sectors as well: from industrial services to agriculture, sustainability, ICT, medicine, wind energy, digital readiness, and the impact of COVID-19.’

Quote: The job market is crying out for workers. Now is the time to make changes.


‘The first cohort of our students carried out quantitative research and gathered information through large-scale surveys. The second and third cohorts are focusing more on qualitative research and obtaining more detailed answers to the questions through interviews. Although the results have yet to be fully processed, one aspect is already clear: the biggest impact for the younger generations happens within the social dimensions of work. Young people mainly choose which company to work for based on the level of social interaction within the company.’

Quote: Thanks to the students’ research, the region is receiving valuable information.


The new generations entering the labour market want more than a good salary, competitive fringe benefits and career opportunities. They are also requesting meaningful social interactions. That is good news: the job market is crying out for workers right now, and it is time to implement changes. And that brings us back to the research that is currently being done in the EDR. Ulrike: ‘All the research at the IBS is applied research. Students work with real problems and develop plans to solve them. In addition, students not only come up with recommendations but must also take an innovative approach to make them effective and applicable. The businesses then start implementing the recommendations right away. The impact is really quite significant.’

Quote: Students play an invaluable role in bringing together science and entrepreneurship.

This impact is tangible for the students, the research universities and universities of applied sciences, businesses, and the region. Ulrike: ‘The Startup-EDR ecosystem provides the various parties with valuable information. This information is then used to improve the businesses in the region in general, but it can also be tailored to the different niches. Students additionally benefit from the unique opportunity to build a valuable network in the region. They don’t just work on one problem for one company, sometimes talking to up to ten different companies. By examining the problems from such an overarching perspective, they also learn to understand complex circumstances, which in turn helps them come up with creative solutions. And as a research institute, the IBS and Hanze UAS benefit from bringing together applied science and entrepreneurship. Students play an important role in bringing together applied science and entrepreneurship.’