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Start-up of businesses should be in the curriculum

Universities should help students be more innovative, says Stanford professor

Only knowing your textbooks, won’t get you where you need to be. And universities should help students gain this insight through making student start-ups a part of the curriculum.

This is according to Professor Henry Etzkowitz of Stanford University, an expert in the subject of innovation, who was keynote speaker at the University of Copenhagen’s Education Day Thursday and who was also interviewed by the University Post.

In Stanford, he said he had experienced first hand eager students, who make their own way toward success. Here, student government was behind an initiative to provide students with tools and mentoring to start up their own firms. An activity which has proved highly popular among students.

Read what prorector Thomas Bjørnholm said at the seminar here.

Theory alone will not get the job

»One day soon, the University has to take these activities into account, and facilitate for students to work in practice as a part of their degree,« he said.

At Stanford students take leaves of absence from their studies to work full time on creating their own firms.

Etzkowitz sees this as highly valuable, as having theoretical knowledge only, will not get you the dream job anymore, he said. Tough times force students to go out and make their own career instead of waiting for someone to hire them.

Career tips

Etzkowitz encourages students at the University of Copenhagen to do just this.

»I just told the Prorector [Thomas Bjørnholm, also present at the seminar, ed.], that we have to prepare students for these new conditions, change the structure of universities, and provide these opportunities for everyone. And this is not just to business students and engineering students, but also for social science as wells as arts and humanities students.«

He advises students to work within groups, use resources available, and think about other things than only their specialty. Also, students working with people in possession of different skills will reach further than people trying to make it going solo, he argues.

Innovation in ‘innovation’

His favorite example is Apple and Steve Jobs.

»Jobs only put the nice design on the technology, and even with the finished product, he and his companion couldn’t get it on the market before they got a third, and fairly unknown person on their team. They needed someone with experience and market skills to promote the now very successful brand.«

Etzkowitz is the founder of concepts in innovation studies, the so-called ‘Triple Helix’ and The Entrepreneurial University –two concepts that link innovation, co-operation and entrepreneurial spirit. He has done research on the connection between universities, the industry and the government.

No disaster not to succeed

‘Innovation in innovation’, is his slogan, he says. We have become so used to thinking of innovation in a particular way, that the time has come to innovate the innovative processes.

»You can see the university as the primary pillar of the ‘Triple Helix’. It is the students who have all the ideas, and professors can facilitate these ideas to become real projects. Universities have a constant through¬-flow of people, there is always change. This creates an innovative environment where new ideas come to life every day,« He says in his speech.

In a final piece of advice to UCPH students he says that »in Scandinavia, there are many possibilities to get funding for ideas.«

»It is not a disaster to not succeed, you don’t lose everything. So don’t be scared to try, take the challenge«.

Read our recent article: Crisis? What crisis? More student start-ups

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