5 September 2018

BISS Institute: customized data-science education

In a period of a little over two years, the Business Intelligence and Smart Services Institute at the Brightlands Smart Services Campus, or BISS for short, has developed several training programs and classes that focus on data science. These programs have been designed for managers, employees and entrepreneurs based at the Brightlands campuses in Limburg, but they are also open for participation by “outside” companies and independent entrepreneurs. “An enormous shortage of data specialists is developing. We offer the solution.”

Living Lab

BISS Institute was founded during the summer of 2015 by Maastricht University, Open University and Zuyd University of Applied Sciences. The objective was to support business and government in responding to the incredibly rapid developments in digitization. “BISS is a sort of living lab, a place where we take on pioneering challenges in R&D and set up educational programs that are continually adapted to the newest insights and developments,” continues Rudolf Müller, who graduated from the University of Bonn with a degree in mathematics and has been working at the School of Business and Economics at Maastricht University since 1998. “By working with three knowledge institutes, each of which has its own specialists, and the experience we have gained working on cases with APG and other organizations, we are quickly accumulating know-how that we are incorporating into the educational programs.”

Niek Venema of APG is one very satisfied customer: “Last year’s Data Science Bootcamp imparted a great deal of relevant and practical knowledge to our employees, and provided them with inspiration in a short period of time. We were provided with opportunities for processing data better and faster, even in an unstructured form, and then to distill the information contained in this data. The great part is that practical applications have already arisen thanks to the knowledge we acquired during the Bootcamp.”


While UM and Zuyd both offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees and the OU offers distance learning, BISS focuses on employed individuals and their employers in the region. “As mentioned, data specialists are nearly impossible to find, and the standard bachelor’s and master’s degree programs can never produce a sufficient number of graduates.

Hiring people from abroad also does not offer any relief in these efforts. Job vacancies go unfilled for a long time. One option is to train people through focused programs, so this is what we do. We offer a range from basic training programs to one-year academic-level educational programs; easy for people to combine with a job.”


During their promotion and recruitment efforts, Professor Rudolf Müller and his team often run into the expected bias. “Many people tend to think that data specialists have to have an ICT or math background. Nonsense. The key starting point in all this is awareness. How important is data? What can you do with it? It’s about the analyses that are possible; the underlying technology and ICT are a means, not an end. Once organizations clarify what they can do with data and then train the people who are interested in this field, they will have taken an important step. The BISS training programs tie in to these needs.   Employees must naturally have to be interested, and realize that big data offers unprecedented opportunities. And this applies to every discipline, whether you are an accountant, ICT specialist, nurse, doctor, logistics planner, chemist or other profession; data is everywhere. Over the last two years, we have often received the response ‘I never thought that this would be something I’m interested in. I want to continue along this path.’ When this happens, you have motivated people at your disposal.”

Four programs

BISS Institute offers four educational programs, most of which are held in cooperation with Maastricht University’s UMIO which focuses on the development of professionals and their organizations.

  1. Fundamentals of Data Science. This program consists of nine half-day sessions in which awareness is the central theme. Each session will address one aspect in which data plays a substantial role, varying from artificial intelligence to behavioral economics and from information management to the Internet of Things. The program is intended for professionals and serves as a “taster” for those interested in continuing on with the follow-up programs.
  2. Data Science Bootcamp. This is a program consisting of twelve training days that is intended for teams with basic knowledge of programming who would like to make even better use of the options that data offers. The Bootcamp is customized to the specific needs of the participants and may even be provided at the organizations’ own facilities.
  3. Disruptive technologies and decision-making. A two-day training for managers that is also tailored to the organization, providing a glimpse into the possibilities data science can offer their own organization.
  4. Certified Data Science program. This training program consists of 30 modules and is spread out over two semesters. It is designed for managers and employees who are interested in moving to data specialist positions. The modules are given by experts who examine the material in depth with the participants.

By: Bron: Brightlands newsletter