RMa alumnus Rob is leading space research institute SRON in the right direction

Rob Detmers started his career as an astronomer, but ended up in business management. He complete the part-time Master's programme in Business Administration at Radboud Management Academy (RMa), and is now working as a policy advisor on organisational issues at the Netherlands Institute of Space Research (SRON). “Locked offices and closed corridors get in the way of knowledge exchange.”

Portret Rob Detmers

What makes Radboud Management Academy's study programme unique is the focus on the social and organisational aspect



Rob Detmers

Current position

Policy advisor at Netherlands Institute of Space Research (SRON)


Part-time Master's programme in Business Administration

Rob, what exactly does SRON do?

“SRON is a knowledge institute, so we do a lot of scientific research. We employ world-class experts in the fields of climate, astronomy, fundamental technology, and exoplanets (planets outside the solar system, Eds.). We also build specialised measurement instruments for satellites and play an important role in national space research policy.” 

“To give you an idea: I personally completed a PhD project at SRON as an astronomer, in the context of which I investigated black holes. And in climate research, SRON has recently achieved important results with an instrument that measures methane concentrations on Earth, allowing us to immediately detect a gas leak, for example.”

These days, you work as a policy advisor and executive secretary. What do you do in that role?

“As executive secretary, I am mainly responsible for organising things. As a policy advisor, I focus on broad organisational issues. Like moving from Utrecht to Leiden a few years back. That was quite a process and it was a real challenge was to involve everyone in it.”

Why did you choose the part-time Master's programme in Business Administration at RMa?

“What makes Radboud Management Academy's study programme unique is the focus on the social and organisational aspect. The question of how to establish an organisation, by focusing not only on the commercial side but also on people, that really appealed to me.” 

“For my Master's thesis research, I focused on knowledge processes and sociotechnics. Sociotechnics is a way of looking at an organisation as a system. You can set up an efficient system, with everyone doing one task perfectly, but that can have terrible consequences for the organisation and for the people themselves. If they have no room to develop, no autonomy in their own work, and everything is decided for them, people suffer. And that in turn leads to failure, poor business results and loss of knowledge.”

From a socio-technical point of view, what could be organised better at SRON?

“SRON is a matrix organisation, which means that people who do the same kind of work sit together in the department and are assigned to projects from there. Engineers are often assigned to several projects at once, in different departments. Those departments like to prioritise their own research. But who decides what is a priority for the engineer? How do you avoid giving them too much work? It is therefore important for everyone to be aware of what is happening in other places and to share knowledge with each other.” 

“In Utrecht, this was difficult because of the closed offices, which do not encourage interaction. In Leiden, we have an atrium, with coffee rooms and lunch tables. We can see from people's reactions that this is paying off.”

Why would you recommend the part-time Master's programme in Business Administration to other professionals?

“Besides the content-related, socio-organisational aspect, it is a great way to learn about other organisations. Because the study programme attracts people from all kinds of sectors, you end up learning a lot.”

Text: Pim Muller