Entrepreneurship is often linked with starting a new business or organisation. In a university it is often related to the process of commercialising a research process or product for sale, sometimes via a ‘spin out' company. It is also about the transfer of knowledge from universities to industry and the public sector.
Most universities have several ‘spin out' companies and staff are often willing to talk to colleagues about their experiences of working in a business environment and the process of ‘taking a research product or process to market'.
Some universities, such as the University of Oxford, are also establishing a range of initiatives to support and encourage knowledge transfer
Social Enterprise is about using entrepeneurship for a common good rather than profits for stakeholders.
Vitae have developed resources and a DVD to introduce researchers to social enterprise
Intrapreneurship is a term coined by Gifford Pinchot III in 1985 to describe the channeling of entrepreneurial spirit to improve the way that an organisation operates:
Postgraduate research students and early researchers are well placed within the university environment surrounded by a web of knowledge, experience and social/professional networks through which to reconfigure ideas and recognise novel opportunities to benefit the university and themselves. University intrapreneurship can be found in teaching and learning, research, knowledge transfer and third stream activities, offering opportunities that encompass a diversity of procedures, customers, suppliers, products and services.
Could I be an entrepreneur?
The Entrepreneurship Forum of New England (EFNE) suggests the following six qualities of an entrepreneur:
- Dreamer: A big idea of how something can be better and different
- Innovator: Demonstrate how the idea applied outperforms current practice
- Passionate: Expressive so the idea creates energy and resonance with others
- Risk taker: Pursues the dream without all the resources lined up at the start and distributes the risk
- Dogged Committer: Stays with executing the innovation.... to make it work
- Continuous Learner: Constantly exploring and evolving to do best practice.
Source: EFNE website
The biggest challenge can be to identify your ‘big idea'.
Once you have got a ‘big idea' you should:
- talk to your research manager if it is about the commercialisation of your research
- talk to other relevant colleagues in the department if it is about changing or improving your internal practices
- seek advice and guidance from your business development office. They may be able to put you in touch with other research staff that are going down the same path or someone who has previous experience and could act as a mentor for you
- seek training in enterprise skills.
Training in enterprise skills
- Most universities offer some training and support for the development of enterprise skills including creativity, networking, marketing, finance, intellectual property and starting a business. Contact your staff development or business development office to find out what is on offer at your own institution
- In February 2008 EPSRC wrote to almost 60 institutions detailing payments to support enterprise skills for researchers totalling £2.4m. This built on a set of one-off payments that were also made to 29 HEIs in 2007. Check with your own institution what opportunities there are for developing enterprise skills and practice, it is a theme that is being actively supported at government and policy level.
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