Guest article by Annouk Lievens

(More photos of the events are at the end of the article)

On 6-8 December 2017, the University of Antwerp (Belgium) and its Faculty of Applied Economic Sciences and Marketing Department was honored to host the sixth edition of “Let’s Talk about Service” (LTAS), which was organized together with Ghent University’s Center for Service Intelligence, the University of Namur and Fordham University (New York) empowered by SERVSIG.

Opening reception in the beautiful chapel of “Grauwzusters” (workshop venue).

Opening reception on December 6, the day of Sinterklaas – he paid us a visit together with “Zwarte Piet”, his assistant who brings presents & candy to all kids (LTAS participants included J ) on that day.

LTAS aims to introduce young scholars to the wonderful world of service research and provide guidance for their Ph.D. journey or early career. Each year, a workshop on a particular emerging topic is organized, thereby targeting Ph.D. Candidates and Young Faculty.

This year we continued our mission of providing young and emerging scholars with a great two-day workshop in service research. The central topic of LTAS 2017 was on “Young service researchers got talent: bridging academia and business”. This two-day event held at the University of Antwerp (Faculty of Applied Economics) guided young scholars, from fresh Ph.D. Students to early career starters, to develop academically rigorous service research to answer business problems and further inspired them through their Ph.D. journey. For this edition, a workshop with service companies was developed, in which each company suggested challenging emerging research topics. Business and academic mentors have guided participants in constructing a practice-driven academically rigorous research proposal. During this two-day workshop in Antwerp, we welcomed 41 young scholars from 16 different countries.

On the first half day of the LTAS-workshop – Dr. Sarah Van Oerle (former LTAS, Ph.D. and employed as a senior research manager at InSites) together with Prof. Dr. Irene Ng and Prof Dr. Thorsten Gruber –  provided interesting testimonials on how they organize, stimulate & steer academic research with companies.

Prof. Dr. Mike Brady & Prof. Dr. Jay Kandampully provided their views on publishing managerially relevant research. Prof. Dr. Sertan Kabadayi ended the session by elaborating on the role of a business school as a bridge between industry & research.

After the lunch break, we started with the overall presentation of the research problems from our business partners. Before the start of the LTAS workshop 9 different business problems had been assigned to 9 teams. We had assigned an academic coach to every team. Every team was informed beforehand on the company and nature of the research problem they would be working on. During the workshop, the company coaches gave presentations and clarified research issues and worked together with the team.

Some of our hard-working teams with a company and academic coaches!

This teamwork was organized Thursday afternoon and Friday before noon. We developed a clear stepwise process and template for the teams to follow so that they could develop a relevant scientifically valid research proposal. Thursday evening – despite the weather – we made a beautiful walk in Antwerp city center with a nice “hot chocolate” –  & “Gluhwein” stop. A great conference dinner at “Felix Pakhuis”.Time for networking and fun!

On Friday morning we started our day with a video of V.J. Kumar who provided us his brilliant insights into LTAS theme: bridging academia and business.

The second day of teamwork kicked off at 9.30 am where teams continued working on their research proposals, preparing their report as well as their presentations for the afternoon.

At noon, we quickly disappeared for another great lunch at Antwerp central station … beautiful location and participants loved dessert.

In the afternoon, the result from our hard-working teams coached by our company representatives & academic colleagues was presented in a plenary session. We were extremely happy and delighted to have had the support and collaboration of 9 academic coaches (Arne De Keyser, Dominik Mahr, Katrien Verleye, Charlotte Reypens, Linda Nasr, Mirella Kleijnen, Allard Van Riel, Gaby Odekerken-Schröder and Simon Hazée). Special thanks goes to the companies and company coaches who were willing to invest their time and resources into this workshop (Luc Vandenhoeck & Reiner Vandensteen from KBC, Tine Lewi & Bart Van Nieuwenhuyze from Janssen Pharmaceutica, Mark De Coilvenaert from DSP Valley, Thijs Vanderhaegen & Tomas Coppens from VRT and Rudi Torfs from VITO Health)

Company coaches and academic coaches commented on the presentations. They all agreed on the richness, quality, and relevance of the outcomes. Moreover, participants were extremely satisfied with this format as they really learned about the bridging opportunities between companies and conducting academic research. Several teams expressed their willingness and motivation to further work on the research problem they worked on. Companies are now reflecting on the format and possibilities.

Some of the quotes below give an excellent representation of the actual experience coaches and participants had. Here are some impressions …

It was a pleasure to work with such an insightful, inspirational and hard-working team! Thank you all (the team members, coaches, and organizers) for making LTAS such an amazing experience!


I think this was a great learning and working experience, we have a great opportunity here with a team that has so many excellent competencies and thanks to you Dominink we were able to come up with a good plan. 


I enjoyed every single minute of LTAS and apart from the program being interesting it was immensely useful from both academic and personal perspective. I think this LTAS was a textbook example of successful and meaningful value co-creation in a complex service system :).


First of all, thank you generally for the LTAS experience and specially for coaching the group in very structured and productive fashion. I think i speak for behalf of everyone when I say that we enjoyed working together in our group and that we are highly motivated to continue working on the project in one way of another.


We have truly enjoyed working on the project, and are open to any further questions or follow-up by KBC to take this forward! Thanks again for organizing a great edition of LTAS!


It was a great pleasure to work with you on the assignment to recruit participants in the population studies more effectively. Your inspiration and input was invaluable to the group process and your realistic expectations on research were a great help to the entire team.


We would like to thank you all for offering us this opportunity to think about a very interesting and relevant real-world problem. Personally, I think it is safe to say that we have all learned a lot from this experience.


Thanks for the opportunity to work with you on the healthcare / clinical research questions.

The report and presentation reflect a strong approach to provide potential answers to these questions. I especially appreciated the fresh perspectives on issues of high relevance to all stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem. Certainly a nice example of bridging academia and practice in the area of clinical research!


it was great working in a team with you all and thank you, Tine, for taking so much time for explanations! I think I speak for all of us in saying that special thanks should go to our coach Charlotte who did an outstanding job in coordinating this little project! Charlotte, in your organized and constructive way you really took off any negative pressure, left enough room for creative thought and yet managed to help us integrate our different ideas in a sensible way. This is exactly how I wish I could guide my student projects. Chapeau!


In sum, we would like to thank everyone for making this LTAS-workshop so inspiring and successful. We hope to see many of you back in our next edition …

Next year, we will celebrate the 7th edition of LTAS, and Ghent University will host it. So, already save the dates: December 6-7, 2018!!!

Impressions of the event (click on the collage or here):