Ivar, innovation manager at FC Twente: 'Narrowing the gap to the top by leveraging regional knowledge and expertise'

How can players become fitter, stay fit, and reduce the risk of injuries? And how can the Grolsch Veste stadium and the newly planned training complex be made more sustainable? These are the challenges FC Twente is concerned with. That's why the Eredivisie club appointed Ivar Hageman as their innovation manager. "Through smart innovation, we want to evolve into the club of the future."

The football world has traditionally been known as a conservative domain, resistant to changes and external influences. But times have changed. Football is no longer just played on the field. There's also significant work being done off the pitch to make advancements. "FC Twente is aware of this," says Ivar, who also works as a lecturer in Sports and Management at Saxion. "The club understands that it can't compete financially with the traditional top three in the Netherlands. However, by smartly utilizing the knowledge and expertise available in the region, the gap can be narrowed, and the club can grow closer to the top. That's FC Twente's ambition."



To take that step, FC Twente entered into a collaboration a year ago with the University of Twente, Saxion, and ROC van Twente. Ivar is seconded to FC Twente two days a week from Saxion as an innovation manager. He previously held the same position at Heracles Almelo. "I connect the knowledge from educational institutions with FC Twente's performance department. Initially, we focus on innovations in top sports, health, and physical activity. We aim to involve other regional entities in these areas, such as healthcare institutions, rehabilitation centres, physiotherapy practices, and companies specialized in healthcare or motion technology. We leverage the connecting power of football. FC Twente is a major regional connector, making businesses, healthcare institutions, talents, and researchers eager to innovate with us." 


Optimizing performance 

The questions come from FC Twente's coaches and the physical and medical staff. Currently, several projects are underway. One of them is Fit to Purpose. "It's a platform for injury prevention and rehabilitation that we're developing with various regional partners," explains Ivar. "When a player has undergone a certain exertion, what is the physiological effect on the body? By researching this, we aim to gain more insight into a player's physical condition. Additionally, we recently applied for a project related to field training load. For this, the club collaborates with Smart Health and Ambient Intelligence research groups at Saxion, Pro-F, Movella, Het Roessingh, and the FC Twente/Heracles Academy. We want to map the load on muscle groups, tendons, and joints during football exercises without going to a laboratory. This involves sensor technology. The goal is to increase player fitness, prevent injuries, and optimize performance. We hope to share the first results in 2024." 


Financial and societal value 

FC Twente hopes to make strides in sports through innovation, but it can also help the club further regionally, socially, and financially. "We want to achieve concrete innovations for our football branch that are useful for the organization and the players. A club must do everything to facilitate the optimal development of players; that's our primary goal. The proper development of players also contributes to financial stability by eventually being able to sell such a player. At the same time, the collaboration between these regional parties fosters connection, development, progress, and capitalizing on the opportunities in the Twente region." These research projects and collaborations certainly have societal value. "Our primary focus is on top sports, but similar questions about a healthy lifestyle, vitality, and physical activity arise in recreational sports and society. Our ambition is to strengthen health in the region through collaborations originating from top sports." 


Sustainability and region 

As an innovation manager, Ivar primarily focuses on the domain of top sports, health, and physical activity. But the club also aspires to innovate in other areas with regional partners. "Top sports are FC Twente's primary business, but in the next term, we also want to explore other societal challenges, such as sustainability. What can FC Twente do to make the stadium and the new training complex more sustainable, and how can we translate the learnings to the region? The initial investigations for this are already underway with regional knowledge institutions. These are interesting challenges. Sustainability, top sports, health, and themes like the development of technology in the region are crucial focal points for evolving into the club of the future. An open innovation system with partners around the club on various themes—that's an exciting challenge. We can achieve more together by leveraging each other's knowledge and expertise." 


Date: 16 November 2023 |