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Strategic Entrepreneurship in Innovative Start-Ups, SMEs and Family Firms

Course overview

In a fast-changing environment, traditional management skills are no longer sufficient for business leaders to guarantee the long-term survival of their organizations. In a world where yesterday is not the same as tomorrow, opportunity recognition, sensing, seizing, and transformation capabilities become vitally important. Stimulating strategic entrepreneurship aimed at continuously developing a balanced portfolio of incremental and more radical innovations, and thereby considering current societal challenges such as sustainability, digitalization, and resource scarcity, becomes essential for leaders of the future.

A complex environment requires that business leaders develop the ability to make sense of their environment, to interpret what is happening around them and to be flexible in (re-)allocating resources. These capabilities overlap with those usually attributed to entrepreneurs and their activities in uncertain, high-velocity environments. The concept of strategic entrepreneurship was first coined by Hitt et. al (2001) and describes a manager’s behaviour which is both opportunity- as well as advantage-seeking. It combines strategic and entrepreneurial thinking. Many scholars since have identified the beneficial effect of acting entrepreneurial in different company settings, from small to corporate level businesses. Therefore, it is surprising that most schools of thought still make the distinction between a more corporate management route and an entrepreneurial start-up route, while it is in the cross-section of the two fields where most learning and competency building can happen. Managers that act entrepreneurial and entrepreneurs that act more strategical are combining the best of both worlds. Therefore, this course aims to extend the knowledge of the students on this topic. Besides, student teams will explore new strategic entrepreneurial opportunities for two to four businesses, and thereby be able to support their success and long-term sustainability. Finally, we focus on further developing students’ traits and competencies associated with “acting entrepreneurial”.

The course starts from the specific context of innovative start-ups, SMEs and family firms. As in most European countries, more than 99% of the firms in the Netherlands are small and medium-sized companies (SMEs). In week 1 of the course, teams will work on strategic entrepreneurship challenges for innovative start-ups/SME that are constantly exploring new opportunities. In week 2, the focus will shift to strategic entrepreneurship challenges in family businesses. These businesses face additional challenges, as in being innovative they must find a balance between economic, and more socio-emotional family aims and goals. Moreover, family firms have a different outlook on what constitutes success as compared to non-family firms, which has wide-ranging implications for their views on strategy, innovation, and management.

Academic year


Duration and dates

2 weeks from June 23 to July 6 2024

Teaching format

face-to-face on-campus


Prof. Dr. Anita van Gils and Dr. Roy Broersma


Anita Van Gils, PhD

Anita Van Gils is a Professor in Family Business and Strategic Entrepreneurship at the School of Business and Economics of Maastricht University. Next to fulfilling the role of Master programmes director, she has been a teacher and coach for the schools’ undergraduate case competition teams. With her focus on strategic entrepreneurship, she aims to strengthen the competitive position of family businesses. Her research efforts contribute to the establishment of strong relationships between business families, their firms, and the different stakeholders. Topics central to her studies are entrepreneurship, innovation, strategy, governance, and sustainability. Her research has resulted in international publications in journals and books, amongst which in Family Business Review and Journal of Family Business Strategy.

Roy Broersma, PhD

Dr. Roy Broersma (1985) is the operational manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Maastricht University. In his position dr. Broersma is responsible for the three main strategic activities of the Centre; Educate, Incubate and Innovate. These three activities combine the academic focus of Roy in teaching and supporting entrepreneurship throughout his academic career. Next to this Roy has a research background in the topics of SMEs, innovation, strategy receiving his PHD from Maastricht University in 2019. A major drive for Roy is building an entrepreneurial eco-system around Maastricht University combining efforts from government, knowledge institutes and entrepreneurs. in his free time Roy is a more than average tennisplayer, podcast host and festival organizer.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course a student should be able to:

  1. Gain a deeper understanding of the following concepts:
    • Strategic Entrepreneurship
    • Start-ups, SMEs and Family Firms
    • Opportunity Recognition and Exploitation
    • Innovation
    • Creativity
  2. Identify and analyse strategic issues innovative start-ups, SMEs and family firms are facing.
  3. Present solutions to these start-ups, SMEs/family firms in a clear and concise matter
  4. Coordinate teamwork assignments in a multi-cultural setting

Course content

This two-week course will contain a mix of interactive lectures, workshops, company presentations & assignments. The focus of the problem-based teaching method will be on interactivity between students, academics, and practitioners. This requires an active mindset by the students as the value of the learning experience is determined by their preparation, engagement with the subject matter, and active participation. 

A full course schedule will be made available to the selected students.

Next to the course program, a range of social and cultural activities will be offered to allow students to experience the Dutch context.

Course value


Required background

Students are required to have completed one semester of coursework at master level in one of the participating business schools.


Students will be evaluated based on:

  1. Their participation and active attitude during the course, as reviewed by the academic staff
  2. Their performance in both cases presentations, as reviewed by academic staff and practitioners.
  3. The evaluation of both case papers, as reviewed by academic staff.


There are no required texts. Students will be informed of any recommended prior readings on confirmation of enrolment.

Extra cost

250 EUR participation fee (costs such as accommodation, travel and most meals are not included)

Miscellaneous information

a. The location for the course is Maastricht University SBE Campus, Tongersestraat 53 and Tapijn Campus. b. Accommodation and travel must be arranged by the participants. c. Social events are not mandatory and will not be included in the price of the program.

About the School

The Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE) provides high-quality education to students and conducts excellent research, offering an international perspective in the fields of economics and international business management, public policy, governance and sustainability.

Our research focuses on interdisciplinary solutions to today’s global challenges.  SBE’s approach revolves around small-scale teaching methods supported by an electronic learning environment, a portfolio of international study   programmes, and strong incentives for top-quality research.

The focus lies on educational innovation. All degree programmes make use of Problem-Based Learning, with an emphasis on skills development – problem solving, group work, and self-directed learning – to prepare students optimally for the European and international knowledge society.