Cees van Beers

Position

Professor of Management of Technical Innovations. Appointed as of 1 September 2008.

Career in a nutshell

"In 1991, I graduated from the Faculty of Economics at VU University Amsterdam. During my dissertation period, I saw myself working in the business sector or for a government organisation, but by the time I'd finished, I knew it was a career in science that I wanted. But if anyone had told me that I (a quantitative economist) would end up as a professor at TU Delft, I would have had them locked up. After all, unlike at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, very little research into the field of economics and management was being carried out in Delft at that time."

"After working in jobs at the economic institute of Leiden University and the Institute for Research into Government Publications, in 1999 I came to Delft as a lecturer and later associate professor with the Economics of Innovation section. Since 1 September 2008, I have been Professor of Management of Innovation."

Ambitions

"I always aspired to being a professor. If you are interested in science and you work at a university, it is almost your duty to want to be a professor. Of course there is no guarantee that you will, and I was perfectly happy in my old job as associate professor. But once I knew there was a chance of this specific chair, well...."

"There are two reasons why I think this is a special chair, and why I am going to make the most of it. The first reason relates to the subject matter, which covers strategy and entrepreneurship in businesses operating in the high technology field. I trained as an economist, and these are amazingly interesting subjects to analyse from the economic perspective. The second reason is that this chair fulfils a vital role in terms of the education in TPM. Education in Management of Technical Innovations is an important master's programme. Many of our students are later appointed to management positions within so-called high-tech businesses. We equip them with management skills, such as learning how to think strategically and make strategic decisions. Strategy in high-tech businesses is very different from strategy in a large-scale bakery, for instance."

The man behind the prof

"I am 48 years old, unmarried but living with my partner on the edge of the dunes in The Hague. I love jogging, hiking in the mountains and skiing, although I don't go skiing every year nowadays. I read a lot: professional publications and German and Russian literature. I read German books in German, but I can't quite manage Russian books in Russian, ha ha. I also like going to the cinema, preferably on a warm Sunday afternoon when it's nice and quiet."

Best and worst character traits

"I can communicate clearly and I am not lazy, except on holiday. If other people were asked about me, I think they would describe me as someone who gets things off the ground. Our PhD programme, for example, which Scott Cunningham and I put a great deal of effort into three years ago at the request of the then-dean. To my mind, PhD policy is a very important aspect of the faculty. In the olden days, a student was awarded a PhD, given a gift book and told 'goodbye, see you in four years'. I've seen many a PhD candidate get stranded or bow down under the pressure and that's not good for anyone. Not for the PhD student, and not for the faculty either."

"One of my less attractive character traits is that I sometimes find it difficult to be patient or understanding with people I consider to be slow on the uptake or who appear shallow-minded. They tend to make me grouchy. It’s the same when students don't do as well as I had expected. But the opposite is also true; I can be truly pleased if someone does better than I had thought."

Who has inspired you?

"Two men. My grandfather, who was director of a concrete goods factory. He always took a straightforward and uninvolved, almost scientific, approach to practical operating problems. Being able to contemplate things from a distance is essential in the scientific field. The second man is Professor Hans Linnemann, who supervised my dissertation. Particularly because of his applied science-based approach to analysing economic and social problems."

Which subjects would you like to put on the political agenda?

"Stimulating sustainable innovations, to which the Cabinet pays far too little attention, despite the best efforts of the Innovation Platform. Also eliminating non-sustainable energy policy, such as regulatory energy tax. There are no incentives for businesses to invest in sustainability, in fact quite the opposite."

Favourites

"NRC columnist Heldring. He is not as pretentious as many other newspaper columnists. I don't watch much television, but when I do, I watch comedy series for a bit of light relief. I am particularly fond of series such as The Blackadder with Rowan Atkinson and Cheers."

Best moment in my career

"In 1998, when I spent a period carrying out research in Australia at the University of Adelaide. I had a great time and I still have professional contact with some of the people I met there. In 1997, when I had an article published in the international economic journal Kyklos. That article is still quoted, even today. And then of course, there have been countless interesting lectures. The Economics of Innovation in the master's programme in EPA is a good example, where I discussed and analysed scientific articles with the students. That was always one of my favourites."