Role of universities in fostering entrepreneurship

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Role of universities in fostering entrepreneurship

Thursday, 02 December 2021 | Hima Bindu Kota

Role of universities in fostering entrepreneurship

Interdisciplinary approach and new teaching methodologies should be used to provide entrepreneurship experience to students in university settings

Entrepreneurship is extremely important for any economy, for its ability to make a significant impact on citizens and nations as a whole. Great entrepreneurs can change the way we live and work, by creating jobs and wealth, with changes varying between social impact to immense innovations. But can entrepreneurship be taught? The answer to this age-old debate is both yes and no. Since education is essential to enhance the thinking abilities and as entrepreneurship ecosystem is developed by the interplay of actors like universities, government and entrepreneurs themselves, universities become the hotbed of fostering the required entrepreneurial environment. An early introduction and exposure to entrepreneurship and innovation is more likely to sow the seeds of entrepreneurial careers for students at a future juncture. Cities which are ranked highly for their entrepreneurial activities also boast promoting entrepreneurial education and culture. To take an example, Silicon Valley is known for entrepreneurship and is also the home to more than 10 universities, including Stanford and UC Berkeley.

There are three ways in which universities can take advantage of their position to further entrepreneurship. As universities are places of higher education, attracting workforce who wants to lead a better life, they can transform themselves into breeding grounds for budding entrepreneurs. Recognizing the importance of entrepreneurship to the economic development and job creation, universities can impart entrepreneurial skills and knowledge by updating existing programs and developing new courses. Going forward, interdisciplinary approach and new teaching methodologies should be used to provide entrepreneurship experience to students in a controlled environment in the university setting. Creation of industry linkages to provide internships to students with local companies will further enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Secondly, universities can act as incubation centres to follow up and promote potential ideas by facilitating collaborations and incubation capacities not only to students from the area of business, innovation and entrepreneurship, but also from other areas like engineering, humanities, applied sciences and medicine. Provision of physical space to give wings to potential ideas and suitable support to raise funds at an early stage to transform these ideas into business models are their added advantages. of for the development of the business model. The faculty also play an important role in the incubators, as they are crucial resource for mentorship and can channelize the energy of their students by providing proper guidance in research activities. However, not much can be achieved with research and publications of an idea, if it cannot be exploited for business opportunities.

Therefore, thirdly, the role of a university as a knowledge transferrer and as a bridge between academia and industry is noteworthy. Universities involved in applied research have large number of patents, articles and registered intellectual property rights, converging the joint efforts, experience and creativity of students and faculty. However, such research has to be commercialized as well, and here comes the role of universities as a conduit to industry linkages. By establishing connections with industry, universities develop entrepreneurial ecosystems and provide students entrepreneurs with advice on aspects like licenses, consulting, and spin-offs. Entrepreneurship education in universities inspires students to start their own ventures. Several surveys have shown that a majority of students enrolled in an entrepreneurship course aspire to set up their own businesses. Through their studies, it is also found that entrepreneurship courses at universities have a profound impact on the students. Thus, entrepreneurship courses have a positive impact the students' founding abilities.

Entrepreneurs are assets to any nation as they contribute towards innovation, job creation, and enhanced standard of living and the best way to promote entrepreneurship is to make people aware of it by educating them. 

Entrepreneurship education can provide students with technical skills and managerial skills, but most importantly should cultivate entrepreneurial intent among them, which ultimately increases their tendency to start their own enterprise. The Indian higher education system has to step up and distinguish a general business management course from an entrepreneurship course to motivate, train and support budding entrepreneurs. The demand is for education programs which can expand their horizons in entrepreneurship by their unique and hands-on content and teaching techniques. Are the universities listening?

(The writer is Associate Professor at Amity University, Noida. The views expressed are personal.)

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