Research CV


After years of academic and applied research, I became convinced that social innovations start with an agile mixture of theory and practice. Therefore I recently founded the startup Future Life Research to do just that. The company will aim at innovations for the unknown.

Imagine a world you can't imagine...
and then start thinking about how to prepare for it.

If nobody knows what the future will be, how can we decide about the perfect preparation? One can argue that the future has always been unknown and that this does not automatically imply new pedagogical challenges. Of course the future has always been uncertain, but the world is changing and it is changing fast. It is a relatively new phenomenon that technical and societal changes tumble over each other within the horizon of a single lifetime. People not only need to adapt, they need to be able to contribute to and help shaping this changing world. The society as a whole needs people that can create a prosperous future. And from this a scientific and practical challenge arises: can we support people to take control over their own unknown future? In my work I have taken up this challenge and I will inform you about my whereabouts during my journey.

Inspite of my new career path, I enjoyed my former responsibilities. One of my greatest achievements is that I initiated the research line ‘Sustainable Learning’ at TNO and guarded its scientific quality (read more..). With this research line, TNO contributed to evidence-based improvements in the field of learning. It included both formal and informal learning and took place within both the field of education and training as well as within companies and organizations. Furthermore, as a Chief scientist at TNO I was resposible for the scientific quality and output the research group 'Training Innovations' (about 25 researchers). More in the past, I enjoyed to be a lecturer and coordinator of “Introduction into Developmental Psychology”, a course for about 700 Bachelor Students at the Utrecht University (dept. Developmental Psychology).

My main motivation as a researcher is
to stimulate people to take control over their own development.

First of all, this applies to my former research on health behaviour and to my current research on learning and development innovations. Self-direction and self-management are key factors. It also applies to my teaching and coaching experiences. Another constant factor in my career is my fascination for a combination of scientific disciplines. I like to inspire multi-disciplinary teams and I am at my best when new situations ask for new combinations of knowledge and skills.

In my work I try to induce changes on both the individual, institutional and network level, using 'old' as well as 'new' media possibilities. My expertise includes: instructional theory and learning technology, (e.g. ubiquitous learning, e-learning, serious gaming, self-directed learning), quality of life, adherence and patient-provider communication. I am an expert in qualitative and quantitative research methods, amongst others in questionnaire development and validation.

Academic History


Research interests

PhD Project co-supervision


picture of N.C.M. Theunissen

Last updated on 11 September, 2017.