The Da Vinci Programme


About this course

Sustainable development and the strive to make our economies circular are grand challenges the world faces. These can only be solved via an interwoven collaboration of society, science, and technology. Academic education should be at the forefront of training the new generation of connectors, who are skilled in collaborating outside their comfort zone and in creating viable and practical solutions with different stakeholders. This manner of working requires strong disciplinary and transdisciplinary knowledge and skills.
The Da Vinci Programme focusses on this transdisciplinary knowledge and skills, and attitude required for sustainability problem-solving. Future professionals will be encouraged to challenge the status quo, to change what doesn’t work in the transition towards a sustainable world. They will be stimulated to develop strong connector skills so they can build bridges between scientific disciplines and between organizations outside the academic world. And they will be inspired to become innovators that can develop the solutions of the future.

The Da Vinci Programme consists of 20 weeks of full-time challenge-based education in which students will work in innovation hubs at public and private partners outside university. Students will work at the partners workspace, like an internship, but in an interdisciplinary student team, dedicated to the challenge. Five or six societal partners will facilitate a team and provide real-life challenge, such as AkzoNobel, Province of Utrecht, Energy Transition Campus Amsterdam and UMC Utrecht. In several iterations and by applying design thinking methodology, the teams will move from a challenge briefing to feasible, viable, desirable, and sustainable solutions. Students spend two third of their time on this challenge. The teams are guided by a supervisor at the partner organization and by a mentor from university to professionally master tackling real sustainability-related problems. The remaining time they co-work with fellow students in the Da Vinci community and build a personal development portfolio. The Da Vinci community is an important platform for knowledge exchange, peer learning, and personal growth. Students have workshops together and operate in squads with fellow students from other teams to co-create the Da Vinci Programme.

We accept a maximum of 30 students. In case the number of applicants exceeds the maximum, a selection will be done by the coordinators of the program, based on three aspects:

  1. We aim to create interdisciplinary student teams, which means ideally an equal representation of alpha, beta, and gamma sciences. Some challenges require certain disciplines and for some challenges particular disciplines are more desirable than others.
  2. Students must submit a video with their motivation when they register for the program. 3. Students that have registered and submitted a sufficient quality motivation video will be invited for an interview and will be asked to perform an assignment. Based on the criteria of composing the best interdisciplinary teams, the quality of the motivation, the interview and the assignment, the coordinators retain the right to reject students.

More information on registration, criteria & selection procedure available on:


The entire program consists of the team challenge, workshops, jams, fieldtrips, squad activities and a personal development portfolio. The team challenge is 2/3 (560 hrs, including workshops and mentor sessions) and the remaining parts  1/3 (280 hrs, including the jams, field trips, squad activities and end game) of the study load.

The program is divided into three parts according to the iterations in the team challenge. In every iteration the teams undertake the whole design thinking cycle from gathering data to experimenting. At the end of the iteration the teams present their results to a panel of experts.
The teams will be guided in their performance by mentors from academic staff and by supervisors of the partner. Every iteration is anticipated by a Jam in which the community comes together for a whole week. The first Jam has the goal of boosting the community and kickstarting a specific way of working.
During the first iteration there will be weekly workshops on systems thinking, design thinking and interdisciplinary co-working. During the second and third iteration other activities such as field trips will be organized.
There is room for students to co-create and organize parts of the program. For that purpose, students are organized in squads. The Da Vinci Programme finishes with an ‘End Game’ as a large showcase of the results from the team challenges and squad activities.

Learning outcomes

In the Da Vinci Programme we have the ambition to educate future changemakers that are connectors and innovators. To prepare master students for that role in society, we focus on personal development. To achieve the required learning outcomes students will be immersed in a learning experience of doing – experiencing – becoming. These outcomes are distinguished from learning objectives which are defined on the level knowledge, skills, and attitude described below.

Participants of the program will BECOME:

  1. collaborators that are aware of their relationship to the real world,
  2. confident changemakers that know how to act in uncertainty and complexity,
  3. ECO-centric instead of EGO-centric leaders,
  4. creative innovators that are aware of their talents and expertise,
  5. pro-active connectors in a transdisciplinary working environment

Learning Objectives

  • Shows understanding and critical thinking of theory and practices of:
    • innovation for sustainable development,
    • systems thinking and design thinking
    • co-design and stakeholder management

  • Applies methods and tools of systems thinking and design thinking on real-life challenge to develop sustainable, desirable, feasible and viable solutions

  • Applies methods of co-design and stakeholder management within a network of public and private stakeholders outside university

  • Designs sustainable solutions in an iterative process by repeatedly doing research, select and synthesize different types of data, generate innovative ideas, build prototypes, setting up and conduct experiments and critically evaluate your own designs

  • Communicates, collaborates, and facilitates effectively in a transdisciplinary environment

  • Shows personal leadership skills, such as empathy, decisiveness, critical reflection, integrity, creativity, resilience and adaptivity

  • Awareness and understanding of the complexity of sustainability challenges

  • Estimates the value of:
    • an iterative process in complex problem solving
    • diversity and working in transdisciplinary teams for sustainability development
    • co-design with stakeholders in sustainability challenges
    • the design thinker’s mindset and an integrative approach to complex problem solving

  • Approaches challenges as a reflective practitioner

  • Shows creative confidence in an uncertain and complex environment

  • Shows initiative in establishing connections and collaboration in a transdisciplinary team and in a diverse network of stakeholders

  • Shows empathy, curiosity, decisiveness, critical reflection, integrity, creativity, resilience and adaptivity

Competencies & Assessment

The assessment at the Da Vinci programme is competency-based. At the end of the program students show proof of competence on nine competencies: Immersion, Sensemaking, Alignment, Emergence, Imagining, Learning in Action, Critical thinking, Communication, and Collaboration.

These competencies will be assessed in two ways:
First, the total assessment of the team challenge (2/3 of the final grade) consists of three assessments: a presentation and progress report, at the end of every iteration. The first two assessments are formative. Students receive constructive feedback from a panel of experts. The third assessment is summative. Not only the final presentation and progress report is being assessed here, but the entire process and progress of the team during the semester.
Second, the students work on a personal development portfolio (PDP) in which they show individual proof of competence (1/3 of the final grade). This individual assessment will be done by incremental grading. The student is entitled to make use of three formal assessments in which they can show their proof of competence on specific learning objectives. It is up to the student to decide when to be assessed by the examiner.
Active participating in the jams, workshops, team meetings, field trips and squads is a conditional requirement to qualify for the individual assessment.
The deliverables of the team challenge and the individual development will be assessed by a panel of experts from academic staff. The mentor and supervisor provide the panel with advice.
Both the team challenge and the PDP must be graded sufficient (5.5 or above) to pass.

Application Da Vinci Master Program

The application deadline is 22 Augustus 2023

Before you complete the online application, there are some documents you need to prepare and send to

  1. Video pitch in English
    Make an eye-catching video pitch (max. 3 minutes) in which you motivate why you want to become part of the Da Vinci Master Program. Name your pitch: Surname - First Name – DaVinci-Pitch, example: Johnson-Maria- DaVinci-Pitch. Upload your video in Google Drive / Dropbox or make it publicly available on Youtube / Vimeo. In the application form you will be asked to share the link to your video pitch.
  2. Preference for challenge and motivation for ranking
    Above, you can find videos and descriptions of the challenges students will work on during the Da Vinci Program. We would like to know which challenges you are interested in so we can make the best match between challenges and students. This doesn’t guarantee you will be assigned on the challenge of your choice, but we will try to do our best to at least give you your first, second or third choice. Criteria for creating interdisciplinary teams are most important, we aim for disciplinary diversity and representation of all universities in teams. Moreover, we would like to stress that the program entails much more than the topic of the challenge. In your application you can submit one page with a ranking of the challenges in order of preference (1 = my first choice, 5 = my last choice) and a brief motivation of your ranking.
  3. CV in English (max 2 A4)
    Include a short description of your academic performance so far, extra-curricular activities, work experience and other valuable skills or life experiences. Please also indicate how proficient you are in English.
  4. Study progress report
    Your study progress report lists your results.
  5. Combine documents into 1 PDF
    Make 1 PDF of your Challenge preference motivation, your CV and Study progress report and the and name the PDF: Surname-First Name-DaVinci-CV, example: Johnson-Maria- DaVinci-CV.

Once the deadline has passed, the admission committee will review your application. After review, you will be invited for an interview. Shortly after the interview, you will be informed if you can partake in the Da Vinci Master Program.

Good to know

Do you study at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) or Wageningen University and Research (WUR)? You can enrol via

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Utrecht University.


  • Start date

    4 September 2023

    • Ends
      30 August 2024
    • Term *
    • Location
    • Instruction language
  • Start date

    2 September 2024

    • Ends
      31 January 2025
    • Term *
      Semester I
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    Enrolment period closed
These offerings are valid for students of Wageningen University