“Entrepreneurial ecosystems drive local economic vibrancy and national economic growth by building fertile environments for new and growing companies to thrive …. an interconnected network of support players – people who work to give entrepreneurs the access, tools and information they need to be successful.”
This article briefly discusses the benefits of developing and growing an entrepreneurial ecosystem around a university, as a segway to discussing 10 principles that a University should consider adopting to improve their own entrepreneurial ecosystem. It is based on an analysis of international case studies and research; and enhanced by our own personal experience and that of some of our customers.
The document is laid out under the following headings
The purpose is not to spend time on defining what is an entrepreneurial ecosystem as it is anticipated that the reader will have an understanding of this already. However, it is worth describing two groupings that are useful to consider: ecosystem domains and ecosystem actors.
Below we offer Babson’s view of the domains and actors as being critical to an entrepreneurial ecosystem; each one followed by a diagram that zooms into each area (domain/actor) and gives more details of each.
In both cases an absence or weakness in one of the groups will have a negative impact on the overall performance; and on a positive note: positive linkages between different areas can produce a virtuous cycle.
Before considering the how, we should think about why we should put in the effort to build and grow such an ecosystem. As mentioned in the beginning of this article, entrepreneurial ecosystems drive local economic vibrancy and national economic growth. If we get a little more granular, fundamentally, a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem will significantly enhance the number, and success rate, of new ventures – and each actor has their own perspective as to why they would like to see these benefits..
Drilling down to a university perspective, the following are benefits frequently mentioned:
As part of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, we recently attended a conference in Barcelona where there was discussion around why a University should play a key role in building and maintaining an entrepreneurial ecosystem. The university play a number of roles in the entrepreneurial ecosystem:
Beyond being a major contributor and recipient, there are a few other reasons why Universities should play a key role:
One of the most important areas where Universities contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem is in producing graduates with an entrepreneurial mindset.
Mashauri have a range of programs that Universities use to engage their students in experiential entrepreneurial education. We partner with you in designing and running these courses.
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An absolute core principle in Universities playing a role in the ecosystem is that they need to be fully committed to the development of entrepreneurship within (and beyond) the institution. Entrepreneurship should be one of the most important core values of the institution.
Given that entrepreneurship is core, how should universities play a leading role in the ecosystem? We analysed some critical literature on the topic, combined it with our experience in working with university clients and came up with 10 key principles. (Note: in the appendix, there are some examples of “best practices” taken from the literature and our experience).
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Universities should play a key role in developing entrepreneurial ecosystems within their sphere of influence and beyond. The rationale is that not only are they major benefactors of, and contributors to, the ecosystem; but they are also well-placed from the position of their independence and long-term perspective.
However, ecosystems are not organisations and so the approach to developing one must be considered differently. This article suggests 10 principles that Universities should adapt to best play their role in the ecosystem.
Appendix 1: Some examples of entrepreneurial ecosystem best practices from the literature and our experience
Many top universities include entrepreneurship in their vision. Here is a list of the top 30 Universities for entrepreneurship in Europe.
Appendix 2: Bibliography