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Universities invest in entrepreneurship

Published Sep 17, 2010

Eindhoven’s technical university is running a design programme where students are paid by trade and industry. The programme is very popular and provides the university with both financial revenues and valuable direct contacts with industry.

The design programme at Eindhoven was one of several examples which were highlighted when the KTH project “the entrepreneurial faculty” gathered representatives together from six international universities for a seminar designed to exchange experiences.

“The entrepreneurial faculty” is a project designed to provide learning and inspiration and is being run by the faculty board. The purpose is to gather inspiration and ideas for the development of KTH as an entrepreneurial university; this can be achieved by visiting other leading technical universities in Europe.

“We travel together in rather large groups, the entire faculty board including student representatives. In addition we also invite a few people from our external networks. There is a point to this: in order to develop an entrepreneurial attitude, broad, constructive change work is required,” says Folke Snickars who is leading the project.

The project also includes inviting the universities that are visited to a reunion for continued exchange. On 31 August, representatives of six European universities gathered at KTH for a reunion of this kind.

Through lectures, panel discussions and question periods, experiences and ideas were exchanged about cooperation with society around us, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Corporate collaboration on design

The technical university in Eindhoven Holland has for example a two-year post Master’s programme in Technological Design which is carried out in close cooperation with trade and industry.

During the course, students spend their second year working on a design project at a company. They receive supervision from both the university and the company but they are employed and receive an income from the company.

The companies pay the entire cost but they also receive a grant of between 50-75 percent from a public reserve.

The programme is extremely popular and also provides the university with a source of income. But Kees van Hee, head of the school in Eindhoven and who is running the programme pointed out that it also has other positive effects.

“It provides both a transfer of knowledge as well as inspiration from real and immediate industrial problems,” he says.

Eindhoven is a comparatively small seat of learning but is commonly cited as an example of a university that has come some way along the entrepreneurial road. Despite this the university’s President Hans van Duijn was of the opinion that he had received several new ideas to take home with him.

“A student from Karlsruhe said for example that they had started a student club for entrepreneurial activities. An excellent idea, one which I will definitely try to introduce at our university. In general I think that this is a fantastic initiative, we all have a lot to learn from each other,” he says.

German pedagogy

Munich’s technical university has, among other things, invested heavily in teaching skills within the technical/scientific area. In the “School for Education”, the university has gathered a number of school-related activities; for example a partner network with 150 other secondary schools where the university’s professors provide personal mentoring.

The university regards this as its responsibility to equip Bayern’s schools with “teacher resources” that could lift young peoples’ interests and expectations for technology-related university educations.

The project “The entrepreneurial faculty” started roughly five years ago. “Teknikbron/Innovationsstiftelsen” (a technology transfer organization) and VINNOVA have contributed as co-financiers. In total almost 100 people have participated in six trips and in exchanges with 14 universities.

The universities that have now returned the KTH visit include: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Technische Universität München, Universiteit Twente, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Cambridge University and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. In addition, besides KTH, a further two Swedish seats of learning were represented, Chalmers and Mälardalen’s University College.

Text: Ursula Stigzelius