The Sustainable Innovation in the Regional Knowledge Economy Department is engaged in research into the ways in which institutions of higher vocational education and the business community can work together to bring about sustainable innovations in healthcare, housing and tourism in specific regions. The Department focuses on making connections with regional organisations, establishing creative alliances between vocational education institutions and the private sector, making knowledge available and developing sustainable innovation processes. In doing so, it aims to build a strong regional economy and a solid relationship between the educational community and the field for which we prepare our students.

The Department is concerned with issues such as “older people who continue to live independently longer” and “tourists who spend more time in the region and remain there”. How can these populations best be served and what skills do current and future employees require to engage with them? In this case, a ‘region’ may refer to a city or town, province, or area, as well as a specific district. We started out with our project in the Dutch province of Drenthe, but have since expanded our horizons and are currently working on projects in Groningen province and the German town of Osnabrück, to be followed in the near future by a project in Friesland province.


The Sustainable Innovation in the Regional Knowledge Economy Department participates in a variety of projects, including 'Naoberschap 3.0’ [Naoberschap is a regional Dutch term referring to the obligation of people in small rural communities to help each other out], in which we set out to work with businesses located in Drenthe province to look for new forms of local cooperation; ‘Local learning networks’, in which we investigated how networks operating in the Hondsruggegebied area can learn from each other; and 'Mensenpark Hoofdstraatlocatie Emmen’, which involves finding solutions for the future use of the former site of the Dierenpark Emmen zoo. We completed a total of 29 projects  in 2014 in 2014 alone.

Developing education

Both our university and our Department have a permanent commitment to developing and sharing knowledge, and we make a point of integrating the findings from our research into the curriculum. This ensures that current and future employees have the knowledge and skills required to serve the changing demographic that is the elderly. We develop education programmes for students and employees which combine practical experience and theoretical knowledge, including customised courses for people currently employed in the healthcare or tourism industry. However, our students also study the issue of sustainable innovation in the regional knowledge economy, including in their lectures. If you have an interest in this topic, we invite you to participate in our research and the projects in which our Department is involved. 

Partnership between senior secondary vocational education, higher vocational education and the business community

Sustainable Innovation in the Regional Knowledge Economy is a combined Department set up by the Alfa-college Regional Education Centre (an institution for senior secondary vocational education) and NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences (higher vocational education). A particularly important aspect is the input provided by businesses and institutions based in the region, and  the research group and innovation chains with which the Department has partnered include 70 businesses, 15 municipal governments, 4 provincial governments, 4 research and educational institutions, 15 lecturers and 40 instructors employed in senior secondary vocational education and higher vocational education.

Team-Research Group

The Professor of Applied Sciences, who heads the research group, is Dr Ineke Delies, with the other members including lecturers from NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences and Alfa-college, and field experts.


NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences / Alfa-college
Academy of Leisure & Tourism
Postbus 2080
NL-7801 KL Emmen, the Netherlands

Van Schaikweg 94
NL-7811 KL Emmen, the Netherlands

Administrative Assistant, Sustainable Innovation in the Regional Knowledge Economy Ms M. Pestman-de Hoog

T: +31 (0)591 85 36 60

Management Assistant for Projects: Ms J. Westerhof
E: j.
T: +31 (0)591 85 36 85

Office Manager ESR/Academisation Office: Ms Sonja Schuil
T: +31 (0)6 19281329

Team members