The May 2022 HEInnovate webinar explored the key features of several ongoing EIT HEI Capacity Building Initiative funded projects, including their progress to date and lessons learned.
Moderator Rebecca Allinson, Managing Partner of Technopolis Group, was joined by an international audience of 57 and four experts who spoke about their own project experiences, from consortium building and proposal preparation to implementation and ensuring sustainability of results. Presentations were followed by Q&A from the audience and a short discussion.
Slides from the presenters can be accessed below and a recording of the webinar is now available for viewing online.
The four speakers were:
- Bedi Çelik, Project Administrative Coordinator of the Energy Transition Entrepreneurs in Action project (ETEIA), Turkey
- Bárbara Gabriel, Deputy-Dean for Internationalisation at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Aveiro, Portugal
- Pavlina Vujovic, Head of Internationalisation at Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship, Germany
- Yannis Charalabidis, Professor of Digital Governance in the Department of Information and Communication Systems Engineering, University of Aegean, Greece
In the first presentation, Bedi Celik, explained that the key objective of the Energy Transition Entrepreneurs in Action project (ETEIA) was to create an inviting environment for young entrepreneurs working in resource management, energy technologies and circular economy, as well as students interested in transforming their ideas into successful businesses. A culture and ecosystem of support are required to boost entrepreneurship for young people and ETEIA specific project objectives were developed to deliver this goal:
- Increasing innovation and entrepreneurial capacity
- creation of a mentoring program for students and staff
- creation of a system to support the transfer of knowledge from education to business
- Strengthening cooperation between universities and industrial partners
- Exchange of experiences in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship between partners
- Development of knowledge and competencies of students, academic and non-academic staff
With the aim of transforming the university environment from a classical education system to an entrepreneurship supporting system, the project works along eight work packages:
ETEIA aims to reach 25 start-ups and 631 individuals in total by June 2023 and uses a set of KPIs including number of start-ups supported, along with number of students, academic staff and non-academic staff trained and mentored to monitor its progress.
The main challenges encountered during the application phase for ETEIA were finding the right partners and coordinating the project ideas and work packages. To overcome this challenge, those seeking partners can utilize the match-making tool developed by the EIT HEI Capacity Building Initiative. During the implementation phase, challenges were around completion of the right number of surveys and attracting students into the training.
Pavlina Vujovic and Bárbara Gabriel gave a shared presentation on their respective projects EUACCEL and TANDEM+ and engagement with the collaborative initiative, Start For Future (SFF). The latter is an alliance of Entrepreneurial Universities and university-linked incubators across Europe and worldwide. SFF promotes development of sustainable and scalable business models and systemic innovation in Europe by fostering entrepreneurial mindsets in HEIs, their ecosystem stakeholders and their core target groups (talents and start-ups).
EUAccel and TANDEM+ have many similarities and common areas of focus. Both projects were granted funding through the EIT HEI Capacity Building Initiative call in mid-2021. Both focus on how to foster entrepreneurial mindsets and establish or accelerate start-up activities within their entrepreneurial ecosystems. Differences include EUAcceL’s focus on open innovation in an international context, while TANDEM+ looks more at regional ecosystem advancement. EUAccel promotes co-creation between start-ups and companies, while TANDEM+ covers micro-credentials.
The HEInnovate self-assessment has been used to establish the position and profile of each HEI and the consortium as a whole, identifying strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. The results helped to build an Innovation Vision Action Plan (IVAP) with actions around:
- Institutional engagement
- Exchange of good practice through enhanced networking and mutual learning
- Enhance the scale and scope of students’ engagement
- Impact assessment (teaching and learning practices)
- Structure and conditions for people creating their own business
The main results from work together under the EIT HEI Capacity Building initiative includes development of joint holistic programmes:
- for academic and non-academic staff around capacity building
- for transformation of teams and talents to startups, synergising the work of HEIs and incubators
- a joint community platform (startforfuture.eu) – for creation and matching
- cross-cutting work packages and deliverables across different projects
Supported by the EIT HEI Capacity Building initiative, the Start For Future (SFF) alliance today gathers 20+ HEIs, 20 university incubators, two EIT KICs and five international projects (eBridge, EUACCEL, TANDEM+, EUFORIA, entreTime), with a mission to scale the programme and ensure its sustainability. It’s integrating five regional hubs within Europe, and operates worldwide. The alliance and its activities are structured around four key pillars: SFF Academy; SFF Open Incubation Programme; SFF Open Incubator; and the SFF Ecosystems Integrator. (More information is available about each of these elements on the SFF website.)
Learning from the projects presented included appreciation that engaging staff with different positions within HEIs enriched reflection exercises. Students at all levels were found to be actively engaged. KPIs from Phase 1 (July to December 2021) showed that both TANDEM+ and EUAccel significantly exceeded most minimum EIT core KPIs for the 2021 call. Challenges included starting work over the summer holiday period in July, and the short period for reporting by December.
Yannis Charalabidis gave the third presentation, on PROMETHEUS, another of the 23 projects in the first EIT HEI Capacity Building cohort. A project delivering several entrepreneurship support systems, it seeks to foster institutional engagement and change through developing innovative and sustainable systems and services, promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in the areas of digital transformation, and sustainable development.
The PROMETHEUS consortium consists of five universities, two research centres and one enterprise, located in Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, and the Republic of North Macedonia. There are also more than 70 associated partners and 100 associated experts, actively engaged in the project’s activities. The PROMETHEUS Network is essential to further expand the project’s overall actual impact on Innovation Capacity Building.
PROMETHEUS project tools include:
- Entrepreneurship Acceleration Platform: supporting innovation and entrepreneurship competitions with emphasis on gathering ecosystem needs and providing extensive mentoring. This tool is central to the whole project, with 1,000+ members across students, academic and other staff, angel investors, companies, sponsors, incubators and accelerators and evaluators. It has generated over 100 new ideas
- Knowledge Base: tool sourcing news and updates on innovation and startups from social channels, including ecosystem partners, relevant programmes, case studies, success stories and more
- Intelligent Assistant: Toolkit providing assistance and support to students and staff for innovation and entrepreneurship activities. The toolkit combines input by participants - startups, but also from each project’s partners and, once engaged in the assessment, the project users.
- Curriculum and MOOC: on Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship in a Circular Economy
Other project features include the PROMETHEUS International Startup Competition 2022. Initial ideas must be submitted by the end of July. A period of mentoring for selected teams then follows, ending with the submission of a developed proposal. Final presentations, evaluation and awards take place in December. Amongst the benefits and awards are: a) mentoring, b) €25,000 seed funding, c) networking opportunities with investors and experts, and d) scholarships. The PROMETHEUS 2022 Summer School on Digital Innovation and Start-up Entrepreneurship (eBiz 2022) is a startup bootcamp which will be running 11-16 July in Greece, targeting students and alumni of all ages. Many further activities are available via the PROMETHEUS network, including Vocational Education Programmes, Master’s Programmes, student internships and mobility.
Important lessons have been learned from PROMETHEUS.HEInnovate was found to provide a strong overall framework for entrepreneurship and was instrumental in the establishment of the project. PROMETHEUS could not have started without HEInnovate.
As a tool, HEInnovate always suggests something useful in terms of actions to take. It’s not just about self-assessment against the eight dimensions.
HEInnovate can be used by HEIs for self-assessment enabling quick classification of new community members, and can be extended further to cater for more detailed or broader HEI needs, enhancing the basic framework.
Finally, during the Q&A, all speakers agreed on the importance of strong project systems which could run themselves with minimal active management. Catalysing, rather than directly managing, cooperation among consortium members and associated partners is important. With high numbers of individuals and organisations involved, the value of inter-network relationships, and the aim of project impact sustainability, well-functioning systems were vital in enabling interaction.