I attended the recent Entrepreneurial Universities Conference in Muenster, Germany, held over the 25th-27th April. There was great representation from Ireland there with Cork Institute of Technology, Dundalk Institute of Technology, University of Limerick, National College of Ireland, the Higher Education Authority and Shannon ABC all delivering presentations to the attendees.
The Conference was organised by the Science to Business Marketing Centre at Muenster University and the Finnish Entrepreneurship and Innovation Network for Higher Education. There were 230 speakers at the conference and 6 parallel sessions ran for the duration of the two days – a fairly packed schedule. The themes of the parallel sessions were Enterprise Education: Fostering Knowledge Intensive Student Entrepreneurship, Competitiveness, Growth and Wellbeing through Innovations, Knowledge Partnerships and University-Business Cooperation, Entrepreneurship and Development and Science-to-Business Marketing.
The Conference provided an insight into how the third level sector is dealing with (or failing to deal with!) a progressive lack of funding, and making recommendations that, for example, colleges should not rely on licensing intellectual property as a revenue stream, but rather due to the lengthy time to get value from these agreement, treat it rather as an added bonus if it happens.
Other presentations dealt with engagement with SMEs and how to drive implementation of innovative practices within these organisations. Learning cafes, where groups of SMEs and Innovation facilitators were presented and had received very positive feedback from the attendees.
Entrepreneurship and innovation depends upon communication and a rather unorthodox way of stimulating this among innovators and investors, but particularly among research scientists. “The Power of the Donut” is a concept developed by Business Arena Ltd and the University of Jyvaskyla, both based in Finland. They wanted to address the bottleneck in the technology transfer process that exists between researcher ideas and commercialisation of these. Their concept is that if you provide free donuts and coffee, people will show up. Literature is on display outlining on-going research at the University, ways to commercialize research and so. The programme was so successful that they have taken it on the road, travelling to other Universities to encourage researchers to talk, share ideas and commercialize their research.
Other nuggets of interesting information were:
· Ireland has the highest perception of entrepreneurs in the OECD
· German Universities file 600-700 patents per year
· Innovation oriented entrepreneurial activity is 35% in Ireland, 25% in UK and 30% in US
· Based on self assessment (!) Ireland scores highest for university business co-operation across all measured categories of a Survey on European University-Business Co-operation (6,280 responses in total) - http://ec.europa.eu/education/higher-education/doc/business/thematic11/davey_en.pdf. The authors of the report were very careful not to rank countries as responses were based on self assessment, however there is a definitely a qualitative positive message there for Irish third level institutes.
· The biggest driver for University Business co-operation is trust
The Conference is a biennial event, and based on the great information and contacts made at this one, I certainly hope to attend in 2014.