Project aims to develop iDEA Lab as a physical and virtual environment for generating, developing and commercializing innovative students’ ideas through relevant trainings, mentoring and technology put at their disposal. Following the entrepreneurial route (start-ups) or in collaboration with companies (open innovation), it will foster the collaboration between universities and enterprises, advance employment potential of graduates from WBC and enhance the companies’ innovativeness.
Entrepreneurship is recognised as an important issue for WBC. However, entrepreneurial education was more in focus of NGOs than universities. At the same time, projects targeting entrepreneurship at universities in WBC, financed by TEMPUS (JPHES 530213), GTZ (NOSIC) and OSCE (Business Technology Incubator) were focused exclusively on academic entrepreneurship and commercialisation of research or high-tech results, completely missing students. Therefore, this project puts students’ entrepreneurial education in the focus.
Recent study related to entrepreneurial aspirations of students’ at UNS (Todorovic et al. 2012) showed that majority of students (83.1%) had thought about starting up own business, but they changed their minds, from being employer to being employed – during studies because they were not supported (space, mentorship, risk reduction) to try it. Evidence from several studies (World Bank, 2010; SME Policy Index for WBC, 2012; GCR 2012; GII 2012; Todorovic et al. 2012; Radevic and Tinaj, 2011; Karanassios et al., 2006) show that this is common problem at HEIs at Bosnia and Herzegovina (BA), Montenegro (MNE) and Serbia (RS). Highlighted problems related to students’ entrepreneurship and practical experience at WBC are:
- Very small percentage of students in WBC is ready to start their own business after graduation.
- High majority of students admit that they are getting knowledge and acquire skills during studies that are only useful to the public sector or to very big enterprises.
- Education and training in entrepreneurship in WBC is academically driven.
- Entrepreneurship is dominantly thought at business and economic departments, rarely to other students.
- Students well understand that the market in each of the WBC is very small, but they lack the means and support to successfully connect throughout WBC
- There is little if any knowledge about financial instruments of the equity and participation type.
- Only a small percentage of students in WBC get practical experience while studying, because of low level of university – industry collaboration
- Companies from WBC have underdeveloped open innovation practices (if any), thus not exploiting available resources such as inventive and creative individuals.
- At the same time, some of the above studies show that:
- Students’ business ideas are more software and service oriented, than product and manufacturing.
- Student’s start-ups are much easier to establish when there is a systematic guidance in creativity and idea generation.
- Advertisement of good local practices and successful stories foster entrepreneurship
- Incubators twinned with training and education, make the entrance easy to the interested students
This project is concrete response to this evidence. It aims to develop a co-creative and supportive environment - iDEA Lab which will encourage students’ entrepreneurial intent and at the same time support open innovation approach in collaboration between companies and universities. The core idea is to provoke (stimulate, motivate) students and young researchers to actively use their intellectual potential to generate innovative ideas. Through iDEA lab they will get the opportunity to develop and commercialize these ideas by two routes – entrepreneurial (pursuing their own creative ideas) or collaborative (working on problems submitted by existing companies). During this process student teams will have the opportunity to be mentored, guided and advised by company representatives and university staff.
The project is inspired by experimental ecosystem Media Centre that was operational at the UNS between 2004 and 2008 (resulted in several students’ companies and easy employment of involved students) and statement from Rethinking Education (2012) that: “All young people should benefit from at least one practical entrepreneurial experience before leaving compulsory education”. Its overall objective is twofold: to advance employment and self-employment potential of graduates from WBC and to enhance innovativeness of companies, by fostering students’ entrepreneurship, creation of business start-ups at university settings and open innovation approach in collaboration between universities and enterprises.