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Anca del Rio passed the torch to Jeroen van Lent as interim EIT Alumni President on 3 September 2023

To mark this transition in the EIT Alumni Board, a special interview was held with outgoing President Anca del Río and incoming interim President Jeroen van Lent.

3 September 2023 marks the end of a successful two-year term of office for Anca del Río in her capacity of EIT Alumni President. Anca elevated the EIT Alumni community to its next stage of development at the helm of the EIT Alumni Board, the committed volunteers representing alumni of all Knowledge and Innovation Communities. She oversaw an unprecedented EIT Alumni CONNECT event in 2022, the development of the EIT Alumni Node, optimisation of the work of the EIT Alumni Board, the establishment of a closer collaboration with the EIT Community, Alumni Consortium and several external representations at global conferences, among other achievements. Her legacy will be continued by the interim EIT Alumni President, Jeroen van Lent, who is leading the EIT Alumni Board and the Alumni community as of 3 September 2023.  

The EIT would like to thank Anca for her dedication and commitment to promoting the impact of young leaders in the EIT Alumni community and for leading the EIT Alumni Board. The EIT also wishes Jeroen the best of success in ensuring the development of the EIT Alumni community till the end of the year. 

Outgoing EIT Alumni President Anca del Río


This joint interview will give you a glimpse of the transition in the presidency as both Anca and Jeroen tell you their perspectives and vision of the EIT Alumni community.   

Anca, in your role as EIT Alumni President in the past two years, you oversaw the strategic steering of EIT Alumni towards financial sustainability and global development by advancing cross-sectoral cooperation, a culture of growth and excellence and an impact mindset across EIT’s European and global network. What would you highlight as three main achievements in your President role in past two years and what are you proud of?   

Anca: The past two years have been a roadmap to progress and development for our community. A couple of achievements worth mentioning would be the successful integration of our annual flagship event EIT Alumni CONNECT in the fabulous INNOVEIT 2022 series, the launch of the multi-annual collaboration with the EIT Community Cluster unlocking around EUR 1.9M for approximately 12 strategic projects to be deployed between 2023–2025, the rollout of the first EIT Alumni Node as a playground for our entrepreneurs alumni, and the relationships we strengthened with each EIT Knowledge and Innovation Community, the EIT Global Hubs and key European organisations.  

And what would you mention as three main challenges?   

Anca: It is not always easy to navigate this complex ecosystem, be responsive to the higher-level agendas whilst listening to the alumni and pursuing a bottom-up approach. Regardless, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with a fantastic team at the EIT Alumni Board and to be able to rely on the support of great professionals, including the EIT Director and staff, who made sure that EIT Alumni remains a community “by alumni, for alumni.” Another challenge has been time; being the President of the EIT Alumni as a part-time job definitely has its limitations in everything you wish to pursue and what stays within the realm of “possible”. Prioritising was not always the easiest process.  

You have been working with Jeroen over the years, in particular on partnership and identity development of the EIT Alumni Community. What joint success could you mention you achieved together?   

Anca: It is no secret that Jeroen is a talented, driven, and skilled professional who has dedicated valuable time to build the capacity of our community along the years. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with him hand in hand, learn so much from his tremendous “Brussels” acumen and be inspired by his passion. I am enormously proud that together we successfully implemented the Partnerships and Identity vertical in the EIT Alumni Board and designed a process around it to be able to ensure continuous development for impactful public and private collaborations and growth. 

Jeroen, you have been around the EIT ecosystem and in Alumni communities for years. First, with your hat as President of EIT Digital Alumni Association and then as member of the EIT Alumni Board representing EIT Digital Alumni community. Your experience in building alumni communities is indeed outstanding. What are the biggest challenges to building an effective alumni community and where do you think the EIT Alumni Community stands in terms of being an effective community of innovation change makers?   

Jeroen: I believe it is most important to deliver services that meet the expectations and needs of our Alumni. This can be a programme that helps those aiming to launch their business, or a great networking event to find your next co-founder. The big challenge here is the enormous scale of our community and the diverse needs our Alumni have which are obviously hard to accommodate. However, I feel that the past years have shown that incorporating some innovation methodology can help. Under the guidance of Anca, the EIT Alumni Board has been focussing on a couple of broad verticals and defined the way forward for each. Some concrete programmes such as the EIT Alumni Nodes have now been established and there are many more to come.   

The EIT champions innovation and entrepreneurship with the aim of increasing Europe’s growth and competitiveness at a global level. Why do you think these two particular areas are so essential for Europe’s future and how can the EIT Alumni Community transform Europe and the world through innovation and entrepreneurship?   

Jeroen: Europe (and the rest of the world) is changing, there is no denying in that. We have to act now to limit the impact of climate change, AI is becoming more present in our everyday lives, and we are still in the aftermath of a global pandemic, just to name a few reasons. These challenges can only be solved when working together, across disciplines and fields of expertise, and often require groundbreaking innovations. It is for this reason Europe needs an inclusive, diverse, and progressive agenda when it comes to sustainable development in the years ahead. An agenda that involves the next generations of bright young leaders and empowers everyone to act. Equally essential to solve these problems is the entrepreneurial spirit to gather funding and bring the solutions to market. Both happen to be things that most EIT Alumni are particularly good at. 

At the moment, EIT Alumni community gathers all members, coming from individual KIC Alumni communities. In your view, how can the young, dynamic, and entrepreneurial members of the EIT Alumni community make Europe healthier, greener, and more digital? And how can the EIT Alumni community support them achieve this?   

Jeroen: As mentioned before, I believe most challenges can only be overcome when collaborating, and the real value of the EIT Alumni community lies there. The most innovative solutions for a healthier Europe likely require digital expertise, and a greener Europe can only be achieved if everyone chips in. The EIT Alumni form a powerful network that spans across industries and sectors and allows individuals to connect and collaborate on these complicated challenges. Not only by starting a groundbreaking project that requires deep tech, but also by connecting with likeminded alumni at events, workshops and meetups. It is the powerful network of very smart people that supports finding the next impactful job, the deep tech start-up company, or the innovative project.  

Anca, what are the first three words that come to mind when you think of your two years of presidency inside the EIT Alumni Board?   

Anca: Leaders. Future. Positive change. 

Jeroen, what are the first three words that come to mind when you think of starting your mandate as interim EIT Alumni President?  

Jeroen: Community. Impact. A better world; 

Anca, what is your advice for Jeroen to continue the work of the EIT Alumni Board?  

Anca: There is no other person I could think of handing over the EIT Alumni President role. I am happy that in the coming months in his interim position, Jeroen will be equipped with a “super team” (EIT Alumni Board Members) to support his plans and endeavour; My advice is to make the most of it and for it. 

This is a question to both of you. How would you like to see the EIT Alumni community in 5 years’ time?  

Anca: By 2028, I wish that EIT Alumni would have spread its wings and became the largest alumni organisation in Europe with limitless and global opportunities for the EIT innovators and entrepreneur graduates. I envision a bright future for our community that would ideally operate independently as one of the strongest allies of the EIT, the European Commission and the Knowledge and Innovation Communities.  

Jeroen: I would like to see a well-established and recognised Alumni organisation that leaves a positive mark on the world. EIT Alumni should expand and introduce new services, increase support for innovative projects and become a trustworthy partner for the EIT and other stakeholders. The community should be inclusive, diverse and welcome new members from the various disciplines and corners of the globe. 

About Anca del Río

Anca del Río is a sociologist, health economist and thought leader in strategic development, global health and innovation governance. With a strong entrepreneurial drive for impact, digital transformatin, and positive change, Anca is fostering collective action between businesses, governments and the civil society for progress and a sustainable future.

About Jeroen van Lent

Jeroen van Lent has been the President of EIT Digital Alumni from 2019 until 2023 and has been active in the EIT Alumni Board for many years. He has a broad experience in various industry-leading companies and NGOs, enabling digital transformation in higher education and Erasmus+. With a strong passion to drive transformation and innovation, Jeroen aims to encourage entrepreneurshup and push for positive change.