UMIO and City of Maastricht develop a common sustainability roadmap

On December 6, a team of students and staff from UMIO’s Service Science Factory (SSF) presented the results of a project that looked at how the University and the City of Maastricht can operate more sustainably by working together. The eight-week project, Collaboration Agenda 2030, focused on possible synergies between the two.

Maastricht’s municipal government and university are the city’s largest employers, so it makes good sense to join forces in as they develop their 2030 organisational sustainability roadmap. A project of this kind will only work if it involves concrete initiatives.

Student participation as a key ingredient

One of the reasons the City chose to work together with SSF was the involvement of students from Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics (SBE). Student participation is a key ingredient in SSF programmes like this, as it enables our partners to profit from fresh insights based on the latest academic research. Especially where it concerns a subject like sustainability, which inspires many students.

The challenge

The team considered how the University and the municipality together can improve acquisitions, reduce their carbon footprint, create climate-neutral operations, adopt more inclusive behaviour and ensure employee wellbeing—all of which falls under the heading of sustainability.

Design Thinking

SSF uses their own method for creating innovative solutions, called the Double Diamond Approach, which is rooted in design Thinking. It considers the greater context when designing a solution and consists of the steps “Discover, Define, Develop, and Deliver.”

Design Thinking

“The project is typical for the Service Science Factory approach in that it uses the Design Thinking methodology,” said Carmen Vonken, Project Leader and Service Design Trainer at UMIO’s Service Science Factory. “We start the challenge by investigating the existing situation thoroughly and follow up with creative ideation sessions—a process of brainstorming and rapid prototyping to deliver tangible and concrete solutions at the end of eight weeks.” On October 8, a team of nineteen students started interviewing stakeholders. They studied the academic literature and best business practices to prepare for the co-creation session. In the final step, the ideation sessions brought about a variety of solutions that were further developed into a number of concrete concepts.

Sustainable Maastricht

It was clear to the team that the City and the University are missing out on opportunities. But, by working together, they can leverage synergies to attain some much-needed goals. The team has dubbed the new partnership programme Maastainable—Our Internal Sustainability Journey. It will support knowledge sharing and encourage parties to join forces, teach and learn from one another, and generate ideas together in the fields of sustainable sourcing, sustainable usage, employee wellbeing, and team cohesion.

The Future

“The project went extremely well, and the first meetings between Municipality and University, to implement the findings are planned” Carmen concluded. “The challenge now is how to create ongoing human and financial support for Maastainable.”

Make Service Innovation work for you

How can organisations create innovations that make use of important trends? How can firms incorporate the customer perspective into business and design processes? What are things to take into consideration when it comes to implementing a sustainable innovation?

With a focus on service design and innovation, UMIO offers valuable insights into what is needed to develop enduring innovations that allow organisations to evolve in the 21st century and beyond.

UMIO has assisted a wide variety of organisations including Siemens, Ziggo, LIOF, the Province of Limburg, Puratos, L1 Radio and TV, Canon, Volkswagen, Chemelot, Scelta, and many more.

To find out how to make Service Innovation work for your organisation, please don’t hesitate to contact Carmen Vonken.

Innovating Healthcare Tourism

UMIO’s Service Science Factory (SSF), with its track record of introducing innovation in healthcare offerings, provided a two-week workshop in Portugal, focusing on entrepreneurial skills for healthcare PhDs. Key objectives: the development of innovative business models in healthcare tourism and strengthening researchers’ innovation capacity.

International research cooperation

The workshop came in the form of the Alhtour Innovation & Entrepreneurship School for PhD students. The Alhtour project is about developing Assisted Living Technologies for the Health Tourism sector and is funded by the European Commission. It combines international research teams from the University of Macerata (Italy), the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, Maastricht University and the University of Lisbon in Portugal and is an example of triple helix cooperation.

Developing healthcare tourism in Portugal

The healthcare tourism market in Portugal is a relatively unexplored market that provides many opportunities and is considered a strategic priority for Portugal’s tourism sector. As part of the drive towards developing this market, the University of Lisbon is preparing the set-up of a ‘Health Tourism Living Lab’ in the Lisbon area.

Creating innovative business ideas

SSF’s workshop challenged PhD students from different fields in Medicine, Engineering and Social Sciences to create innovative business ideas for the healthcare tourism market in Portugal. In an intensive 2-week trajectory, SSF introduced the participants to insights into the healthcare and tourism markets, presented by leading industry experts. This was complemented by workshops in business innovation and Service Design. The focus throughout the whole trajectory was on creating innovative, user-centric business ideas in the healthcare tourism market that are ready to be implemented.

Sowing the seeds of innovation and entrepreneurship

The innovation and entrepreneurship school was not just about exploring market opportunities and generating immediately applicable innovative business ideas. The longer-term goal of the workshop was to provide PhD students with a technical or medical background with an entrepreneurial and business attitude.

Interactive development

To achieve this, the school applied a whole range of interactive training and educational methods. Participants worked in multidisciplinary teams on the development of a business idea through workshops, presentations, examples, coaching and interactive discussion. The participants were guided through the development of their business idea by Carmen Vonken and Sabine Janssen, two experienced SSF-project leaders, and Dr. Dominik Mahr, Scientific Director of SSF.

Double Diamond

Lectures by experts from the industry provided deep insights into the market, and were complemented with user research and desk research by the participants themselves. The trajectory followed the Double Diamond methodology, rooted in Design Thinking.

Understanding the context

The first days focused on getting a broad understanding of the context through presentations by representatives of the Alhtour project, by successful start-ups in the healthcare tourism market and two successful corporate companies active in the hotel industry and healthcare brokerage. Participants performed desk research to discover main trends, understand the competitive landscape and identify best practices in the healthcare tourism market, in Portugal and at a global scale.

Gaining user insights

After understanding the context in which their new business ideas would be operating, the participants were challenged to gain user insights by interviewing and observing customers, but also by acting as customers themselves to experience firsthand the frustrations and difficulties of customers looking to find medical or wellness treatments in a touristic setting. Using different design thinking methodologies and tools, participants gained a good understanding of their target customer and the customer journey.

Creative ideation

In creative ideation rounds, the participants defined different user-centric ideas for a start-up business, building on the user insights from their research (the design challenge). During the break in between the two weeks, the participants had the opportunity to  validate their startup ideas with customers and staff of a well-known hotel chain in Portugal.

Designing the solution

The second week focused on designing the solution by prototyping the business idea and developing it into a concept that is both feasible and viable. Business models were developed and participants were challenged to create an implementation and launch plan for their business.

Pitching the results

During the final day, the three teams pitched their business ideas to a professional jury panel of investors. After the pitching session, the jury praised the participants for their enthusiasm, innovativeness, drive to make an impact and their ability to go beyond their comfort zones.

A lasting impact

The trainers were very happy with the level of commitment, the learning curve and the three business ideas the participants delivered at the end of the two weeks. An even more important result is the lasting impact in the form of a broadened mind-set, and the drive to think and act more as entrepreneurs. The toolbox and methodology provided in the workshop enable the participants to integrate this expanded mind set into their working practice.

The business ideas

A virtual wellness companion that recommends personalised wellness holiday based on user profiling, with useful guidance throughout the customer journey for healthy restaurants, spas and relaxed activities based on personal wishes…

A health village that provides the best orthopaedic treatments and lets you recover optimally by providing you with all the services and facilities you need in one location, while enjoying a great holiday with your family, in the sunny climate of Portugal…

A personal mentor that helps you quit smoking, deal with your burnout, or lose weight and who creates your personal package of medical treatments and supports wellness activities in a hassle-free, relaxed environment…


“Summer School taught me how to apply agile tools, which allowed me to develop a user-centred response based on the user’s needs and projections in a short space of time.
I am happy that the tools I learned can be applied to personal projects/projects, which allows me to contextualise the market context and position the service or product in a conscious and thoughtful way.”

Hugo Simao (participant Innovation and Entrepreneurship school)

“I learned the tools to develop a business idea and what are the steps that we need to take in order to make it possible. I also learned that it is not only possible but very enriching to work with people with very different backgrounds to build up an idea. At the course we learn by doing and at the end we felt that we could really design a business without knowing anything before. These tools can be very important for my career because in the future I would like to become an entrepreneur in the health sector.“

Filipa Novais (participant Innovation and Entrepreneurship school)

“It was really valuable to see that participants with a non-business background were able to design innovative and feasible business ideas in just two weeks, helped by design thinking and lean-start up tools. Bringing together insights from experts in the healthcare and tourism industries and participants with backgrounds in medicine and social sciences, provided a fertile environment for stimulating innovativeness and to kick-start feasible and user-centric business ideas. It have been two very exciting weeks, and it was inspiring to see the enthusiasm with which the participants have brought their ideas to life, and convinced the professional jury panel of the value of their business idea. I am very much looking forward to developing more schools like this in the future.”

Carmen Vonken (Project Leader Service Science Factory)

Make Service Innovation work for you

Carmen Vonken is an experienced project leader with UMIO’s Service Science Factory, who leads multidisciplinary project teams to innovative service solutions, and facilitates workshops in service design and innovation trajectories. Contact Carmen to find out how to make Service Innovation work for you.

Introducing our MaastrichtMBA students to Service Science

Innovative thinking is an important part of the MaastrichtMBA programme, in particular through the module ‘Sustaining Competitive Advantage’. In this module, UMIO’s Service Science Factory (SSF) provides participants with the necessary mind-set, processes and tools to improve the innovation capacity of their organisation. This is far from a theoretical exercise. Because participants practice service design tools and experience all stages of the innovation process during these sessions, they become empowered to implement processes and tools in their own organisation.

Bridging academia and practice

This is typical for the approach of SSF: it bridges academia and practice, facilitating companies to gain sustainable competitive advantages through service innovation. SSF has realized the potential of service innovation in different organisations through more than 50 projects, using a state-of-the-art project approach, making use of proven service design tools and multi-disciplinary teams that stimulate co-creation.

The right perspective

As a method, (Service) Design Thinking addresses complex challenges, by embracing the perspective of the end-users, when creatively prototyping new product or service offerings. Industry leaders such as Apple, McKinsey, and Mayo Clinic, place this approach at the centre of their business activities, and IBM even proclaims it wants to become “the world’s largest and most sophisticated design company”.

Practical results

The MaastrichtMBA innovation module consists of five sessions. During the final session, the teams present their innovation ideas and underlying business concepts to an expert panel, which provides practical tips for improving and implementing the ideas. The best ideas were rewarded with a panel prize and an audience prize.

Get in touch

There are several ways SSF can support you and your organization in exploring the value that ‘Interaction Design’ can provide. For instance by facilitating innovation projects for the improvement or development of new services which incorporate the ‘Interaction Design’-perspective.

Learning opportunities

There is a range of educational trajectories available where we train professionals to incorporate the ‘Interaction Design’-perspective into their daily work and specific projects.
As an introduction to the world of ‘Interaction Design’ we have developed a hands-on inspiration day for professionals, where you will work on a case, take the customer perspective and start designing interactions for delightful experiences. Feel free to contact us for more information.

Session Instructors

Dr. Dominik Mahr, Scientific Director Service Science Factory
Dominik is an Associate Professor at the Marketing and Supply Chain Management department of Maastricht University. As Scientific Director of the Service Science Factory (SSF), he is responsible for a wide range of services that create new and improve existing offers of companies.



Dr. Elisabeth Brüggen, Professor of Marketing
Elisabeth (Lisa) Brüggen is Professor of Marketing at Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE). She is an internationally recognized expert in services marketing and financial well-being, particularly regarding pension communications.




Damien Nunes, Service Designer Service Science Factory
Damien has a background in design and is currently project leader and service designer at the Service Science Factory (SSF). He facilitates projects, workshops and inspires creativity within (project)groups to develop new innovative service concepts.



Sabine Janssen, Msc, Project Leader Service Science Factory
Sabine has a background in strategic marketing and business experience in corporate communications, strategic consultancy and innovation management. Her focus as project leader at SSF is design thinking, service innovation and project management and educating professionals in these respective fields.



Download the complete Experience Report


Using Design Thinking to make your employees ready for the Internet-of-Things

Recent advances in technology put Internet-of-things (IoT)-innovation on top of the management agenda across industries. It is predicted to increase economic value by $11.1 trillion in 2025 (McKinsey 2015). The Service Science Factory and Noventum collaborated on this article to present a state-of-the art view on the Internet of Things and how to implement this vision within organizations.

For more information about “Using Design Thinking to make your employees ready for the Internet-of-Things” by Damien Nunes, Dominik Mahr, and Rosanne Gresnigt, visit Innovation


Fast Forward (FFWD) programme participants design better learning experiences for SBE stakeholders

For the third time, the Maastricht University (UM) School of Business and Economics (SBE) is offering the Fast Forward (FFWD) programme. FFWD is a leadership development programme that helps prepare and support academic talents in their personal and responsible leadership, to involve them in SBE’s strategy and to expand their network within SBE. Last year’s FFWD cohort visited the refugee centre in Maastricht. This year, one of the activities of the programme is a practical experience day during which participants developed ideas to improve the learning experience of SBE’s stakeholders in education. The Service Science Factory (SSF) developed an experience day that enabled participants to take an outside-in perspective and to prototype ideas for improved collaboration with both students and companies.

For more information about “Fast Forward (FFWD) programme participants design better learning experiences for SBE stakeholders” by Laszlo Determann, visit Maastricht University’s Talkin’ Business.

Innovating Service Experiences: Employing Ethnography for Better Understanding of User Needs

The increasing development of new service innovations and the growing risk of innovation failures require organisations to derive distinct value propositions that set them apart from competition. Increasingly managers realise the value of customer experiences to design distinct services. Yet, organisations feel challenged to capture the holistic nature of experiences. For example, a retail shopping experience might be influenced by how difficult it is to find a parking place – prior to the purchase – and to return a bought good – after the purchase. Traditional methods and approaches such as surveys and interviews are suitable to only a limited extend as they fail to capture subtle conscious and subconscious influences across the entire customer experience journey.

For more information about “Innovating Service Experiences: Employing Ethnography for Better Understanding of User Needs” by Susan Stead, visit the Service Design for Innovation Network.


Moving Towards Network-Conscious Service Design: Leveraging Network Visualisations

While user-centric approaches to service innovation prove to be effective, innovators often omit that the focal user is not the only one influencing the decision for or against a new service. For example, when examining the introduction of social service robots in an elderly care setting, the final decision is influenced not only by the elderly (the focal actor), but also by family members, friends, GPs, nurses, and other professional service providers.

For more information about “Moving Towards Network-Conscious Service Design: Leveraging Network Visualisations” by Martina Čaić, visit the Service Design Network.


Service Science Factory (SSF) conducts international project for Puratos

Service Science Factory (SSF) conducts international consultancy projects to foster business development through services innovation. This article describes a successful project SSF conducted for Puratos, an innovative, Belgian multinational company in bakery, patisserie and chocolate ingredients.

For more information about “Service Science Factory (SSF) conducts international project for Puratos” by Sabine Janssen, visit Maastricht University’s Talkin’ Business.

Organizational Revolutions through Idea Hacking

Businesses face the dilemma dividing resources between protecting the current value chain and developing new value propositions that in time replace the old ones. Not every organization has the luxury to have its own dedicated innovation unit and still then the ideas might not always be too innovative. Hackathons are an affordable and energizing way to generate innovative ideas that can revolutionize your organization.

For more information about “Organisational Revolutions through Idea Hacking” by Damien Nunes and Dominik Mahr, visit Innovation