Student Surrogate Entrepreneurs: can entrepreneurial education linked to research boost sustainable innovation?
Conference contribution, 2017
This paper investigates students being appointed as surrogate entrepreneurs for early-stage sustainable innovations under the format of an educational course. Entrepreneurship at universities used to be about professors producing inventions that were “taken care of” by technology transfer organizations. However, this approach is not realizing the full potential of a university. Today, therefore, entrepreneurship at universities is more focusing on students and alumni being the main vehicle for impact. While this shift of perspective is promising, this paper wishes to focus attention on students not just developing ideas of their own but actually being appointed to more research-based ideas, as a means of transcending the so-called ‘Valley of Death’. Much sustainable innovation arguably gets stuck in this valley. Thus, arranging a course where students engage in early-stage idea development and evaluation makes sense as an approach to cross the valley. The paper examines an early-stage idea development and evaluation course started in 2008, and exemplifies some of the innovative outcomes. The main conclusion of the paper is that such an approach has multiple benefits (learning- and innovation-wise) with relatively limited extra expenses, risks or even opportunity costs. However, from a student perspective, there are concerns of such a course having both traditional and progressive teaching formats. Over the year, many students have expressed concern about one or the other format (either the course being too progressive, uncertain and real-life; or the course being too traditional, requiring readings and lectures). This divergence has made it difficult to obtain high course evaluation scores, even though, as illustrated through student deliverables and examination, new and important knowledge, skills and attitudes have been acquired. The policy implication of the paper is that universities concerned with sustainability should establish similar course models, where students more or less act and learn through being surrogate entrepreneurs for early-stage potentially sustainable innovations.
skills and attitude
student surrogate entrepreneur