Increasing awareness of the value and importance of developing entrepreneurial competences and skills among staff and students is necessary for HEIs to become more entrepreneurial and innovative. A good first step to increasing awareness about support for entrepreneurs on campus is to effectively use communication tools such as the higher education institutions' homepage; associated websites; and social media. This establishes a central communication mechanism for both internal and external stakeholders. Placing entrepreneurship and support for entrepreneurs on, or in a "1-3 click" proximity to, the organisation's homepage sends a signal that entrepreneurship is important.
Websites can reach a wide audience with few resources, but more active approaches are necessary to reach key client groups such as students. One approach to increasing awareness of the importance of entrepreneurship is by having entrepreneurship modules in all fields of study. Alternatively, awareness campaigns are an important tools and those which require active participation will likely have a greater impact. Special events could be organised in co-operation with the business community, centred on:
- Work-projects (e.g. “Start-up Weekend”); or
- Promotional (e.g. “Global Entrepreneurship Week”).
It is also important to go beyond awareness raising by stimulating interest in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial intentions. One method is to showcase success stories from local youth entrepreneurs. For example though events such as “Start-up Days” where local and graduate entrepreneurs tell their story to inspire interest in enterprising behaviour. Such events could be arranged in a co-operation with local authorities and organisations, the HEI, and graduates/alumni. Another approach is to invite local entrepreneurs and alumni to participate in entrepreneurship learning activities on campus, including delivering guest lectures in courses and working with students on start-up or consultancy projects. It is important that they are visible and accessible to students so that they can identify with them as role models. This presents an excellent way for students to gain insights into idea generation and venture creation and development. It is also important to celebrate successful student start-ups. These ventures are often easier for other students to identify with because these entrepreneurs are their peers. Successful student entrepreneurs could be featured at entrepreneurship events and even within entrepreneurship education.
HEIs can also stimulate entrepreneurship in students by ensuring that a conducive framework is in place to support them in business creation. This includes providing access to a business start-up support infrastructure (e.g. incubators), as well as ensuring that study programmes are sufficiently flexible to allow students to pursue business creation by extending the duration of their study. Reaching staff will require a different approach such as workshops and training sessions on entrepreneurship and research-relevant activities.
A more advanced approach would be to create an “Entrepreneurship Advisory Group” that would primarily consist of successful entrepreneurs from the local area (who are often alumni). This group would advise senior management and academic staff on how entrepreneurs support could be further adopted to the higher education institution and student entrepreneurs.
It is also important to have a conducive framework in place that allows staff to own shares in university start-ups, and to work part-time and take sabbaticals to pursue business start-up.