Marina van Damme was born in 1930 in the Netherlands and graduated from Delft University of Technology in 1953 as a chemical engineer. After five instructive years at TNO’s Central Laboratory in Delft, she began her impressive career at Royal Dutch Salt Industry, KNZ (later merged into Akzo N.V.). First as a research associate, later as head of the laboratory and as deputy director of KNZ. During that period she was also the first engineer to receive a doctorate in Engineering from the University of Twente.

Around age 40, Van Damme decided it was time for something completely different. She wanted to study toward business development. It was a leap of faith, but she climbed the career ladder quickly and in 1978 she became director Central Staff at Akzo N.V. She advised the Board of Management on strategic and operational plans and on investment projects and acquisitions. She served on the Advisory Board of TNO and ABN AMRO, was active in the entrepreneurial organization VNO and a member of study groups in Brussels and at the Ministry of Economic Affairs on engineering policy. In 1988 she was asked to join the Scientific Council for Government Policy, and diminished her activities at Akzo N.V. to Advisor of the Board of Directors on Chemical Strategic Development.

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When I started studying in 1947, only 1 in 100 students at Delft University of Technology was a woman.

- Marina van Damme -

Van Damme has had an amazing career, which she wishes upon other women as well. In 2003, she therefore established the annual Marina van Damme grant at the university of Twente and Delft University of Technology, and later she added Eindhoven University of Technology and Wageningen University and Research. The scholarship is intended to provide female engineers and PhDs who have several years of work experience and want to develop further. In this way, they increase their chances of having an interesting career. The scholarship also creates a network of women who can exchange their experiences and help each other further.

Throughout her career, Marina van Damme has always sought equal opportunities for women and men in business and science. As a member of the Scientific Council for Government Policy and by holding various other advisory positions, she has made her contributions. Her commitment and contribution have been invaluable to the development of women in engineering and business in the Netherlands.

Last update: July 2023