Society in 2030: contributing to a fair, sustainable and digital society

In the spirit of this mission, we envision a society in 2030 in which we seize the technological opportunities of our time with confidence and wisdom. In the coming decade, society will face many challenges. It can only hope to overcome these with the full engagement of the scientific community. The UT believes in a focused ambition that involves setting clear priorities in education, research and innovation at the touchpoints between these challenges and our own identity. Given the UT’s mission to be a university of technology that puts people first, we direct special attention to three societal themes and the challenges they pose; these can all be framed in a single question: how can we contribute to the development of a digital, fair, and sustainable society between now and 2030?

A fair society in 2030: making humans more humane

Putting ‘people first’ includes all people. We will do whatever is necessary to eliminate societal divides that bar certain individuals, or groups, from access to new technologies, the skills to use them, equality of opportunity, inclusiveness, health and well-being. Technologies have a proven capacity to widen divides, so for a fair society we counteract this tendency. Together with society, we design technologies wisely, so that they add value to people’s lives, and empower them. In the way in which we organise our research and education, we stimulate a culture of personal development, enabling staff and students to make a valuable contribution to society. Through our work, we foster both ambition and social equality.

A sustainable society in 2030: wellbeing within the ecosystem

In an era in which unsustainable ways of living have become the biggest threat to humanity, we create viable solutions. It is our mission to respond to societal needs by developing sustainable, proactive measures to support our planet and the people to which it is home. As a university, we lead by example. We consider sustainability to be a precondition for everything we do, while our diversity nurtures adaptability and resilience. Our recognition of the value of human capital is the single most important key to the long-term well-being of our students and staff, and to the effectiveness of our organisation. Our education, research, innovation and organisation are centred around environmental, social and economic sustainability. This gives us the kind of edge that does not eclipse others, but includes them: an authority that speaks for the good of all. Society welcomes the difference we make through our work, and eagerly joins us in our efforts to create a liveable world for future generations.

A digital society in 2030: contributing and benefitting

The Digital Revolution has been the most life-changing technological development of our era. At this very moment, machine learning and artificial intelligence are transforming the way innovations emerge. Given these developments, society has already had to reinvent itself, and so have universities. Our university aims to contribute in two ways to this ongoing transformation. First, our scientific community will contribute by providing revolutionary digital innovations, with special consideration of their long-term implications for all that we value as a ‘people-first’ university of technology. Society can only fulfil its true potential by adopting new ways of appropriating and interacting with technology. Part of our role in this is to develop technologies that match society’s needs, and to monitor the growth of technological intelligence among different population groups. Second, we will benefit from these technologies as well: digital innovations continually shape and reshape our research and education. As digitalization progresses, people will need skills tomorrow that do not yet exist today – basic coping skills, as well as skills that can continue to evolve. Therefore, our educational programmes prepare students for ongoing re-education, while also laying a foundation of skills for professional adaptability and personal development, such as critical thinking, creativity, communication and resourcefulness. Our researchers embody the value of lifelong learning. We invite and equip professionals to keep in step – or to keep ahead of – developments, becoming confident, balanced, digital citizens.

Our university in 2030: what it will look like

In order to have maximum impact on society in 2030, we must become an entrepreneurial, inclusive and open ecosystem with a signature style of working. In pursuit of this ambition for 2030, we can build on the work carried out in the context of our Vision for 2020. Back then, we identified four core values that we still cherish today: internationalization, impact, synergy, and entrepreneurship. We have achieved many of the goals we set ourselves with these values. Looking ahead, we will continue in what we have already mastered, and stretch ourselves where we need to adapt. Here is an impression of what this will look like.

In 2030, we will be living in a digitally mature society – an open world that continues to change. Those involved in creating and managing technologies will have new responsibilities, serving society sustainably as developers, analysts and improvers. We will have grown in our role of helping society to deal wisely with technology. We will be open, and actively engaged in dialogue on the origins and effects of technology and digitalization. We will be collaborating in networks designed to bring out the best in people. Our own people – scientists, students and facilitators alike – will be problem solvers with a recognizable way of working. They will spend their time wisely. They will be able to quickly adjust to a rapidly changing, and often unpredictable, environment. They will be confident, considerate, and driven by curiosity to explore new ways of developing, harnessing and collaborating with the best technologies. Many people will come to us for guidance: to learn what the future of technology means for society, and what the future of mankind requires from technology. Our community will be inclusive and diverse, comprised of people with a rich variety of experiences, backgrounds and identities. At all levels, we will be actively and structurally engaged in personal development towards social sustainability.

The shape and form of our university by the end of the decade will be the result of much experimenting between now and 2030. During this time, we will have learned what it means to continuously reinvent ourselves, our research, our teaching, and the very nature of entrepreneurship and innovation.

Our campus, including both virtual and physical locations, will be a network of living labs and meeting places - places where students have reliable and transformative learning experiences. In 2030, our physical locations will not be limited to our campus in Twente: we will be present at multiple strategic sites. These will all be centres of innovation, social exchange and networking, offering a safe and open environment to those who study, work, gather and live there. With new types of students as well as public and private organisations populating these places, our infrastructure will provide flexible spaces for new ways of collaborative working.

Getting in shape: our entrepreneurial, inclusive and open mindset

We will set clear priorities and merge our core values into a mind-set that encompasses all that we believe is important for realising our vision for 2030. In every area, we must distinguish what matters most in actualizing our ambition and rising above our current selves. For one thing, this means we must centre our entire organisation more emphatically on our significant strengths. At the same time, we must have the courage to make bold revisions where needed, to develop latent strengths, and to explore new territory. This is part of what it means to live in a transformational epoch: we are part of it, whether we like it or not, and the choice we have is to be either the/a pilot or a passenger. We can make choices that influence the transformation of society. In order to do this, we must cultivate a mind-set and attitudes that enable us to reach for new heights in entrepreneurialism, inclusiveness and openness.

Entrepreneurial: courage over comfort

Big challenges call for courageous solutions from wise leaders. We believe these bold answers can be found by leaders through experimenting, pioneering, innovating, risk-taking and venturing. With this in mind, we are out to redefine the essence of entrepreneurial thinking and acting. It is our ambition to inspire new generations of students and researchers by pushing our university’s renowned entrepreneurial attitude to new levels – all with a view to inspiring and guiding our high-tech society. We set new standards for industrial and societal collaboration with maximum student involvement. We pioneer new forms of education that, in turn, inspire and empower students and staff to experiment. We constantly test the limits of technology, science and design through new synergies between scientists, designers, industries, R&D, universities, governments and citizens.

Inclusive: student over system

Everyone in our community is learning and is therefore a student. This thriving, talented community of unique individuals is our most crucial asset in serving society. Recognizing, attracting, developing and retaining talent will be an important, even fundamental, requirement. We do not strive to grow in numbers, but in quality. This means raising the bar not only for our services and support, but also for our students and staff as talented individuals who embody an inclusive mind-set and serve society. It also means we will seriously invest in individual well-being, talent development and transformational leadership among our students, staff and teams. Bearing in mind that each talent is unique, we will develop a highly personalized way of giving each talent the best possible support and input, empowering students to reach their potential, and to lead active lives on and off campus. Rules, structures and regulations are helpful means, but not ends in themselves. Personal empowerment means made-to-measure conditions for everyone: conditions designed to help us all grow throughout our lives, while recognizing, developing and rewarding individual talents. We will optimize all conditions within our networks so that talented individuals of all ages and backgrounds can drive their own development, as well as that of their peers.

Open: community over campus

True collaboration is essential for the fulfilment of our mission as the ultimate ‘people-first’ university of technology. Being a networked organisation enables us to maximize our impact and reach our goals. We are reliable and ambitious partners in dedicated networks. Science is teamwork, so we engage in connected communities. Be it locally or globally, physically or virtually, we strive to connect with people and their needs and wishes. We cherish the power of our alumni network, leveraging it for the advancement of science, and for addressing societal challenges. We continuously accelerate the development of the Twente region, the Dutch-German borderland, and beyond.

The campus remains our hub, but we reach out far beyond. Together with local communities and partners, we assess societal needs and interests, and use the resulting insights to build our programmes. Our people are part of a major, thriving and open ecosystem, in which we connect across geographical and other boundaries, guided by shared standards of excellence and responsibility,. Our university is a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable partner.

A crucial factor in this openness is our trustworthiness. We believe trust makes us adaptive, sustainable and resilient. We guard our compliance with the highest standards of integrity, seeking always to honour the trust given to us. We are responsible partners, transparent, and geared to continuous improvement. In our way of working, we seek to minimize control and to maximize trust.