Marina van Geenhuizen


Professor of Innovation and Innovation Policy for the Urban Economy.

Private life

“I’m married with two ‘donor’ children. My husband is a professor with the faculty of Applied Sciences. He is now retired, but just as busy. One of the nicest things is that we sometimes write articles together. A while ago we wrote about the adoption of the electric car and more recently about the adoption of new types of photovoltaics.”

Outside interests

“I enjoy walking through historic city centres and neighbourhoods, particularly those with Jugendstil and Art Deco architecture. I also love travelling through extreme landscapes, such as during my recent trip to South Africa. One of my future plans is Antarctica.
On the one side I’m introverted, happily locking myself away for days on end, to write an article or edit a book. In such cases my work is also my hobby. But I also have an extroverted side that loves decorum and ornamentation. So I’m often busy with table settings, flower arrangements and designing our garden. I’m also a follower of fashion.
I don’t really have the urge to collect things, but I do like to keep mineral and fossil samples. I also take an interest in development projects that help to give young children a better future. I have two Plan children of my own, and I follow projects in South Africa that support the many orphaned children whose parents died of HIV.”

Favourite pastimes

“Running – not fanatically, but enough to stay in shape – and flower arranging. And figure skating – no longer actively, but I enjoy watching.”

Most memorable moment in your career?

“The most memorable moment consists of two steps. First, the recognition that led to an associate professorship, and following this, the recognition by a national committee, which led to my becoming professor. The professorship opens doors, but also comes with a big responsibility, which I relish. I also enjoy making foreign contacts, most recently through the editing of a book about creative knowledge cities and a new EU research project.”

Biggest challenge right now?

“Currently, my work is focussed on the ups and downs of spin-off companies from the university. Spin-off companies vary enormously, therefore it is difficult to identify regularities. That’s the challenge, in terms of patterns of survival, growth and innovation, and developing ideas for improving the policies of these companies. My particular interest lies with spin-off companies involved with life sciences and renewable energy sources. Do they have more opportunities or do they take bigger risks? What is the biggest stumbling block over the course of time? We don’t know enough about this, while at the same time the importance for society is huge. Of course, spin-off companies are just one way of exploiting university knowledge. Likewise, the characterisation of diverse forms of knowledge valorisation is also a challenge, with new tools for innovation management, such as ‘living labs’, deserving our attention.”

Best thing about your work?

“This has to be the interaction with PhD students and graduates. I always try to push them just a little bit further so that they discover and push their own boundaries. This is very much in line with my philosophy on life: always try to take things one step further, and it will lead to better results. But never lose sight of the balance.”

Why Delft?

“Actually, it wasn’t necessary Delft, but the TPM faculty that I felt drawn to in 1995. What appealed to me was the fascinating combination of cutting-edge technology, society and economics.”

Best characteristic

“I’m a happy soul and an optimist, and like nothing better than getting the best out of young people by giving them a little push in the right direction or supporting them in any way possible. But of course, you would do better asking this question of someone else who’s close to me!”

Worst characteristic

“Someone else is probably also a better judge, but personally I think I’m a little bit too ‘suspicious’. The positive side of this is that you continuously question the background to something, leading to more clarity, for example regarding someone’s rationale.”

High on the political agenda

“Top-sector policy is of course a great way of positioning the Dutch economy on a higher plain within Europe. In addition, education at all levels in the Netherlands must be qualitatively improved in order to keep up with other European countries, China and parts of Asia. And don’t forget the immigrants in our society. They have their own talents related to their unique cultural backgrounds. We should stimulate the use of this more through solid training.”

Sources of inspiration

“My inspiration in life comes from the beauty of nature, even that which is on our doorstep, and the smallness and temporary nature of our existence. The idea that just a minute part of something can be great beyond measure, and that it may be here for just a moment in time, fills me with inspiration. But it is even simpler: seeing children progressing, growing and keeping their balance, or students picking something up, is already inspiration enough.”

Life philosophy

“Don’t waste talent, but don’t push irresponsibly hard; in other words, try to find a balance.”

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