Three methods universities are creating entrepreneurship ecosystems globally


March 23, 2021 10 min read

This article was translated using AI technologies from our Spanish edition. Errors can occur as a result of this process.

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur’s contributors are their own.

There is currently a growing range of academic programs aimed at entrepreneurship around the world. There’s even a ranking from The Princeton Review, which rates the top universities for studying entrepreneurship at the bachelor and master levels. Oddly enough, these lists of 50 universities at each level consist only of North American universities, with the exception of Tecnol√≥gico de Monterrey, which ranks fifth in the student category in its 2021 edition.

Several scientific studies of entrepreneurship ecosystems have confirmed the interdependence of the actors within them, with universities, government and entrepreneurs being the most relevant for promoting entrepreneurship, among others. In this article I will focus on the specific actions of universities as triggers and drivers of entrepreneurial activity. It’s worth noting that a lot of research is also underway on entrepreneurship development among university students. The largest is the Global University Entrepreneurial Spirit Students’ Survey, or GUESSS for its acronym. The OECD also conducted a study in Germany on how universities lead the way to entrepreneurship, and the World Economic Forum published an article on building entrepreneurial universities, both of which were taken into account.

According to the global GUESSS 2018 report, the university context plays a key role in which entrepreneurship education and corporate culture determine the entrepreneurial intentions and activities of students. If you analyze the list of universities to study The Princeton Review’s entrepreneurship and cross it with the ranking of global ecosystems published by Startup Genome, you will find that they match in most cities. It is no accident that the presence of highly qualified universities coincides with the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. As in the infamous Silicon Valley, where there are more than ten universities, Stanford and UC Berkeley are the most important.

The government itself also plays a key role as it can develop programs and public policies that regulate activities, either by promoting productive sectors and / or improving the conditions for business start-ups and conditions for intellectual property rights to seize opportunities Has. . However, I am convinced that universities have a much less politicized mission that favors the ecosystem and are already centers of knowledge that are barely recognized as catalysts for entrepreneurship.

One example is a country very far from the United States that has recognized this potential. Qatar in the Middle East, the headquarters of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which since 1997 has initiated the Education City development as part of the National Vision of Qatar 2030. A 12 square kilometer infrastructure compendium with eight international universities, research institutes, start-up centers, technology and cultural parks and much more.

This year, for the first time, I am coordinating the deployment and implementation of the GUESSS project in Qatar from my trench at HEC Paris University in Qatar as a postdoctoral fellow of the ecosystem for entrepreneurship. I have seen the joint efforts of key players to promote a long-term strategic plan (Qatar National Vision 2030) that includes innovation, science and entrepreneurship as axes for the transformation of the economy, from oil and gas base to knowledge base. I wrote a book on this entrepreneurship ecosystem and when I compared what is being done in other parts of the world to my experience studying ecosystems of emerging economies, I concluded that there are three ways universities can do Develop by contributing to the ecosystem in which they are established.

1. As a breeding ground for talent

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, there are around 582 million entrepreneurs worldwide, 7.7% of the world’s population. This means that more than half of the world works or will work for a company or organization. However, most aspire to be entrepreneurs and therefore not all manage to do so. There could be several reasons such as: B. Fear of failure, lack of education, lack of capital, ignorance, etc.

Universities, for their part, are already a filter for people who have achieved a higher level of education and who one day strive for better working conditions. Universities are, among other things, increasingly competitive and strive for international accreditations such as QS-Ranking, Financial Times, EQUIS, AACSB, EMBA, etc. This depends on the field of study, but something that is common in the rankings is that they are asked to monitor the workload of former students, i.e. to know what they are working in after graduation, whether there have been salary increases, whether they have been for long needed to find work and now also whether they are partners in a company.

This shows that the university plays a vital role in not only preparing the workforce of existing organizations, but also preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is considered to be the main engine of economic development because of its contribution to internal production and job creation. As a result, today university degree programs are being updated and expanded to include skills development and knowledge acquisition for entrepreneurship. Many pursue interdisciplinary approaches and new teaching methods, so that the students have already experienced in a controlled environment how they can develop a business idea before graduation. In more developed entrepreneurship ecosystems, students do this type of internship with local companies, making the relationship with the industry increasingly important to universities.

2. As an incubator for business ideas

Regardless of whether students are completing specific programs such as a bachelor’s degree in business creation or an MBA in entrepreneurship and innovation, universities have business incubation programs available to all schools (medicine, humanities, architecture, engineering, etc.) and interested workers . Some even have accelerators and technology transfer offices, but I’ll discuss the latter in the next section. On the part of the university incubators, they work more as headhunters or hunters of internal projects that the students develop in various programs and courses to help them avoid getting lost and being followed up. To achieve this, they organize entrepreneurial competitions with attractive prizes for the winning projects.

University business incubators are empowered to offer specialized mentoring and training and usually function as an autonomous institute of the university. Many offer physical space and assistance in raising capital early to develop the business model. In most cases, the faculty has an important connection to the incubator or entrepreneurship center of their university, as they can participate as mentors. More importantly, however, they must be fully aware of projects that are emerging from the classrooms and can channel them.

3. As a mentor in knowledge transfer

Universities that also conduct applied research as part of their accreditation activities are increasing in patents, articles and registered intellectual property rights. Faculty members and students work more and more closely together on research projects where experience and creativity grow together. Universities also have the opportunity to obtain funding for research through recognized researchers.

The problem is when research remains in publications and not used as a business opportunity. Another contribution of the universities to the development of the local ecosystem for entrepreneurship is to establish links with industry and advise on knowledge transfer. Knowledge transfer can take place through licenses, advice and spin-offs, among other things. To realize this potential, universities sometimes open technology transfer and / or research offices so that they do not miss their own opportunities.

MIT was one of the best-known examples of the creation of a university micro-ecosystem that promotes the transfer of research and development for innovation. This university has four centers for research support and five more for direct student support, as well as student associations focused on scaling technology-based projects for entrepreneurship and innovation.

Somehow, the proximity between universities, research centers, and universities leads to more mature entrepreneurship ecosystems. The difficult thing is to restore conditions in other countries with different economies, different cultures, laws, etc. So he suggests not replicating Silicon Valley but understanding what works for them and adapting to the local conditions when evaluating the development that you have. Entrepreneurship ecosystems are typically assessed based on the total risk capital raised by companies, the number of outlets or IPOs, and the number of startups created. For universities, it is recommended to conduct a very similar follow-up and update assessment among alumni, for which the GUESSS can serve very well.