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Views and challenges on innovation and entrepreneurial education in Europe

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Bullet Point summary:

Summary Ideas:

  • Knowledge production without innovation processes can’t provide solutions to human needs.
  • Innovation processes without entrepreneurship cannot create progress at societal level.
  • The three concepts, knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship, are interlinked in a process.
  • The science-innovation-entrepreneurship process is not linear, as it is influenced by external factors and management differences across European states.
  • The EU has launched several initiatives[1],[2],[3] that have helped to make the process more efficient but new challenges constantly arise.
  • Euroscience´s Science Policy Working Group would like to emphasize the role of entrepreneurial education as a key element to maximize the impact of the science-innovation-entrepreneurship process on our society.

Why innovation and entrepreneurship are important – defining the concepts

Scientific research, innovation and entrepreneurship have been the main engines of societal development since the early time of the industrial revolution. They generate substantial benefits and provide practical solutions to acute issues within the society.

Science creates knowledge that has no boundaries[4]. The stock of knowledge produced is a shared heritage and is the basis for progress. Innovation is the capability to transform knowledge into new solutions that stimulate progress and growth, while entrepreneurship, or better said, the “entrepreneurial approach” is the skill in starting new businesses, especially when this involves grasping new opportunities. This links specific capabilities with the business element and the ability to identify new opportunities in terms of new products, processes or services[5].

EuroScience, the European Association for the Advancement of Science and Technology, considers innovation and entrepreneurship as fundamental values. With such a perspective, it is a moral duty for all of us to “prepare” the new generation of skilled people.

Positive feedback loop between knowledge production and economic growth. The diagram depicts, in a simplified manner, how the production of knowledge leads to economic growth via innovation and entrepreneurial approaches which financially reverts back into the production of knowledge via public and private reinvestment. Entrepreneurial education is an essential element that strengthens the loop.

The European scenario

In spite of the intimate link between scientific research, innovation and entrepreneurship, Europe faces constant and persistent difficulties in the transformation of research outputs into solutions that generate economic growth, create jobs and address human, societal and environmental needs.

In the 1995 Green Paper on Innovation, the European Commission already identified serious bottlenecks and has since implemented a large number of policies to address these issues. Nevertheless, we observe that the situation is not alleviated as reflected in the most recent Communication on the European Research Area for Research and Innovation[6].  Europe is being challenged with a constant and increasing competition in a globalized world. In this competitive arena, Europe needs a new paradigm to preserve its appropriate share, both by taking into consideration its previous contribution to the development of global science and technology, as well as taking advantage of potential synergies within the European Union.

We consider that not all processes that permit the transformation of the stock of knowledge into solutions to the benefit of society are efficient. There are still marked differences between EU member states: Cultural, legislative and infrastructural issues are all contributing to such a fragmented situation. These differences are affecting the capability of Europe, as a whole, to exploit the existing potential in terms of knowledge creation and innovation. This is exacerbated by barriers to exploiting scientific research through innovation and entrepreneurship.

The challenge: to reinforce the necessary links

The challenge we are currently facing is how to reinforce the links between research, innovation and entrepreneurship and how to streamline the path between them.

Neither research, nor innovation, in themselves, make any sense without an ultimate goal, namely, their transformation from immaterial concepts into material physical concepts (products, services) and solutions that cover social needs of communities (local, regional, national, global).

The engine through which research activities, transformed into innovation, leads to practical application is clearly Entrepreneurship.

Policies, properly regulated national legal/fiscal frameworks, dedicated infrastructures, interested and equal partners as well as the presence of an efficient capital market, the need for resources to finance basic research and the exploitation of scientific results to develop innovation are the necessary framework to activate and facilitate the process but the crucial ingredient is the entrepreneurial approach of the researcher.

For the above reason, EuroScience´s Science Policy Working Group is particularly interested to consider the role of entrepreneurial education[7]  in reinforcing the Research-Innovation-Entrepreneurship chain.

Entrepreneurial education in general curricula

Many European universities are offering single entrepreneurship training modules as “stand alone” courses or optional modules usually categorized as “transferable and soft skills” components of the “standard” curricula. Still, we must outline that vast differences exist among the different European countries on the role that such modules have in the context of the career pathways, content, training credits and, last but not least, in terms of rewarding both the acquisition and the use of knowledge and competencies developed in the “normal” scientific activities. Such know-how is frequently ignored in the assessment of students/researchers in academic settings.

We consider that there is an urgent need to overcome limits and problems that are negatively influencing the adoption of such cultural elements as standard components in curricula. Here, we would like to emphasize that the lack of entrepreneurial culture and attitude, particularly within the staff employed in research and in technological and scientific faculties, is also an obstacle, which is preventing the European system to maximize the impact of outstanding research results that are developed.

The way forward – unlocking the potential of entrepreneurial education

As we observe that the efforts of the past two decades still did not produce sufficient results in the development of the European entrepreneurial attitude and culture, EuroScience´s Science Policy Working Group calls the European and national policy actors as well as European universities and research institutions to:

  • Address the fragmented European higher education system, where components on some of the key instruments for development are working in different, and in some cases, non-coherent ways and align policies and regulations to overcome this situation.
  • Provide support to initiatives that outline the positive social role of innovation and lift up the role of the entrepreneurial approach as the key element to drive the innovation process; defend the role of innovation in our society and act at the cultural level in order to increase the awareness of all the European citizens of the role of innovation.
  • Educate a new generation of scientists with a better set of competencies and increased knowledge and act in order to improve curricula for students that will put greater emphasis on entrepreneurial and innovation management components.
  • Call for reward of the use of such skill set and define pan-European guidelines to this aim
  • Further simplify/promote the exploitation of scientific results in coherence with the other European, national and regional initiatives.
  • Stimulate common cross-regional and cross-country initiatives to better train the next generation of scientists and innovators on a comparable level of European entrepreneurship culture.
  • Promote cross fertilization across knowledge boundaries.
  • Emphasize the social role and status of science graduates so that they can utilize their own skillset to solve a particular problem through an innovation process.
  • Provide a permanent honest analysis of the development of entrepreneurship and implementation of the related above policies across the EU.

All these points aim toward a paradigm shift regarding the role of entrepreneurial education. We do not have to change the culture but rather enrich the actual culture with a key component: the idea that we can solve the problems that surround us.

This article has been conceptualised and written by the members of EuroScience Science Policy Workgroup on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. For more information and if you would like to contribute to EuroScience Science Policy Workgroup, visit the website or contact Teresa Fernandez.


[1] European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)

[2] European Innovation Council (EIC)

[3] European Universities Initiative (EUI)

[4] Science The Endless Frontier A Report to the President by Vannevar Bush, Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, July 1945

[5] Azim, MT and Al-Kahtani A.H. Entrepreneurship Education and Training: A Survey of Literature. Life Sci Journal, 2014;11(1s):127-135.

[6] Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – A new ERA for Research and Innovation. Brussels, 30.9.2020. COM(2020) 628 final.

[7] The role of entrepreneurial education has been emphasized several times by independent experts in respect to the implementation of the EU Lisbon Strategy: e.g. European Education and Training Systems in the Second Decennium of the Lisbon Strategy, Independent report submitted to the European Commission by the EENEE and NESSE networks of experts, June 2008, or European Parliament Directorate General for Internal Policies Policy Department A: Economic and Scientific Policy Employment and Social Affairs The Lisbon Strategy 2000 – 2010 An analysis and evaluation of the methods used and results achieved Final Report 2010



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Entrepreneur Building A New Efficient Model For Launching Direct To Consumer Brands

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Starting an ecommerce business has changed significantly in recent years. In the past you had to hire a developer and a large team in order to get a brand to market and scale to a multi million pound business. Due to a number of changes in the industry such as Shopify making it easier to build and manage your storefront, third party logistics companies helping with delivery and better financing solutions, setting up a business has become significantly more feasible. An entrepreneur who has been utilising these efficient ways to build various brands profitably generating millions in revenue is Danny Buck, founder of BrandBuildr

Early Beginnings

Buck’s first foray into the e-commerce world started very young in Manchester, England at 17 where he came across a wholesaler selling hair care products. Noticing the differences in prices between the wholesaler and online marketplace eBay he began buying and selling these items. He continued this whilst at university and alongside some of his peers, who he paid to help with delivering items, made £6,000 over a Christmas holiday. This taste of running a digital business meant Buck found much of the content on his Business Studies degree redundant. However, he completed his studies and after university found a role in customer service at a software company. 

Whilst at the software company it became apparent fairly quickly that a role in customer service was too easy for Buck so he asked if he could get involved in sales and marketing for the same company to which they agreed. He excelled at these new roles and later secured a full time role at the company. As things went on he later came across the idea of SEO (search engine optimisation), which was a relatively new concept at the time. He pitched offering SEO as a service to his manager who was not receptive initially but after him and a colleague decided they wanted to leave their managers were more convinced and suggested the idea of doing a management buyout of the business. Despite being only 22 and thrown into the financial complexities of a management buyout Buck and 3 other members of the team bought the company out and turned it into a web development company offering marketing services which included SEO. 

Building And Losing A Multi-Million Pound Agency

Over the next 8 years this web development company went from a team of 4 to 120 people offering consulting services for many of the eCommerce businesses based in the north of England that dominate the industry today. Whilst this was significant success something Buck noticed was that many of the entrepreneurs he was advising were managing teams 5 times smaller than his but owned companies making 5 times as much in sales using his marketing plans. These entrepreneurs were benefiting from their operating leverage being based around exponentially scalable technology rather than the agency model where you hire more people to take on work meaning your profit growth will be linear. 

Realising this and looking for a new challenge Buck spoke to his business partners and offered to sell his shares back to the company for a payment spread over a number of years. His next idea was to launch a brand building studio where he would use his marketing know how to launch and build e-commerce brands. He launched his first brand Circulr in October 2018 with huge fanfare. However, things took a turn for the worse a few months later when he received an email from his old company saying that they were being liquidated and the equity he was due payments for was essentially worthless. This brought a huge amount of financial stress on Buck and his wife. During the successful years running his agency they had upscaled their lifestyle and he had invested a significant amount of his personal money into starting BrandBuildr. It was “a full 360 moment going from the highs of managing a multi million pound business to having no income” he recalls. 

Whilst Circulr continued to run under the BrandBuildr umbrella and generate sales it was ultimately unprofitable due to the payments and partnerships previously arranged. In order to bring in some income Buck went back to consulting. He started consulting for other businesses and put together a guide called ‘The BrandBuildr Guide’ with a playbook of how brands could launch an online store. The consulting got to a stage where it was covering the household bills but Buck and his wife knew that there was more out there and whilst on a family holiday for his mother’s birthday his wife came up with an idea, inspired by the surroundings, of making and selling sustainable jewellery inspired by turtles. 

They decided to name this new brand Honu and launched it on a shoestring budget. When taking the store live they almost immediately received a sale and took this as a positive sign. Their initial plan was to get to £10,000 revenue per month and make 50% profit only doing forms of marketing that were sustainable. The take up of the brand exceeded all of their expectations as their cause of saving turtles resonated with consumers and they would go on to end up making over £600,000 revenue in their first year. 

At this stage their first brand Circulr was starting to become profitable, Honu was continuing to grow and the BrandBuildr plans were selling. In spite of the hard times it became obvious to Buck that his experience at the agency and seeing the other end of the spectrum launching a brand on a shoestring budget meant he had somewhat developed a playbook of knowing when to spend money on launching a brand and where you can do things more efficiently.

With this in mind the third brand launched under the BrandBuildr umbrella in October 2018 which would go on to be the most successful to date was a jewellery brand co-founded with influencer Alex Cannon called Craftd. Using many of the lessons Buck had picked up along the way he, Cannon and the BrandBuildr team have grown Craftd to a business making £12m in 2020 and on track to make over £25m this year with all of the pieces designed by Cannon.

Going forward the plan for BrandBuildr is to launch and invest in a number of direct to consumer brands. Whilst going from running a multi-million pound agency to losing everything was an extremely stressful experience for Buck the lessons learnt along the way have put him in place to build the business he really wanted all along. 

A practice Buck holds close to his heart is the concept of “building brands + living free”. This is a discipline that he extends to every team member and partner inside the company. Focusing on doing the simple things well and saying “No” to anything that compromises the core company values. 

Inside his book, “Building Simple Brands”, Buck explains how he’s taken all three brands from the kitchen table to the global operation they are today. He’s living proof that the stigma of a 9-5 office-first operation isn’t the only way to build a multiple 8 figure, and potential 9 figure valuation business.

This article is part of a series featuring underrepresented people making a difference. To submit ideas for features or keep up to date with new releases you can find me on Twitter – @TommyPF91





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Asia’s youngest entrepreneur Pratulya Sharma shares his thoughts on Digital Marketing

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A powerful social media presence will be a powerful weapon for your career. Digital marketing is a broad field, including attracting customers via email, content marketing, search platforms, social media, and more. The ability to target your audience better is one of the most obvious reasons why digital marketing is important. Imagine being able to market directly to people who have an interest in your products or services. With digital marketing, you can directly reach leads interested in your business. So read, learn, think and create as much as you can. The more you create, the easier this game will get.


The reason behind Pratulya choosing a digital marketing


There is a very big reason why Pratulya Sharma decided to be a digital marketer. He believes that this field has a great scope for innovation and one can find several options to deal with a particular issue. Pratulya believes that his profession as a digital marketer brings a lot of positive changes in a person’s life such as the ability to adapt and perform creatively. Pratulya wants people to create their website first and make contacts as much as possible. The website should mention them, their services, and what changes they would bring to the digital world.


The secret behind reaching this far


Pratulya Sharma is facing the space by illustrating his remarkable entrepreneurial skills. “Closing deals with big clients is not a kid’s game. When it comes to proving quality services major agencies have failed. Changes are coming daily and agency owners should know how to be updated and how to get clients and best-updated services.” Pratulya Sharma has worked with a very big Record label and Marketing company. He has won numerous Laurels because of his commendable chore at such a young age. He was awarded by the United Nations and IIT as Global Young Leader 2019.


Pratulya’s Company SCMEDIA AND TECHNOLOGIES PRIVATE LIMITED has helped a lot of Clients, entrepreneurs, bands, and ventures to get traffic and brand identity through their marketing strategies. Not only this much SCMEDIA has made a turnover of more than 1.5 Million Dollars in 2020.


Pratulya’s Future Expansion plans


Pratulya is planning to launch a platform where some experts of the market will share their knowledge and it will be helping the growth of young kids with having innovative ideas for their entrepreneurship journey. It will be helping in transforming the Indian education system, its will be very inspiring for youngsters to build their future at a young age as Pratulya Shama did being under 20.

 

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Female entrepreneurs face overwhelming challenges

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By: Melissa Mbazo-Ekpenyong

FEMALE entrepreneurs are crucial to the continent’s economic growth, yet they face sometimes overwhelming challenges.

According to the World Bank, Africa is the only region in the world with more female than male entrepreneurs. One in four African women start or manage a business, many of them in the informal sector. And as women typically use most of their earnings to support, educate and empower their families and communities, more than twice as much as men, the success or failure of these female-owned businesses has an enormous ripple effect.

Yet many African women are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges in their businesses, ranging from discrimination that stems from the apartheid era to the inherent patriarchy of African culture. This entrenched system of social inequality results in an economic disparity that makes it extremely difficult to succeed.

The situation has been exacerbated by Covid-19, which has been particularly devastating to women-owned businesses. Along with the challenges usually faced by small and medium enterprises (SMEs), such as irregular cash flows and limited financial reserves, women-owned businesses are often informal and less profitable, and they operate in some of the hardest-hit sectors, such as hospitality, tourism, agriculture and education. To make matters worse, with schools closing, many women have had to prioritise staying home to care for their families over running their businesses.

To address these issues, it’s important, first, to understand the challenges and, second, to implement solutions that alleviate them.

Access to finance

The African Development Bank estimates the financing gap for African women to be $42 billion (R607bn). Even under normal circumstances, women who do manage to get a business off the ground struggle to obtain funding to expand. African women often lack access to traditional collateral, and their businesses are not necessarily well documented. This makes it difficult for them to satisfy the legal and regulatory requirements for a loan from financial institutions. Many opt out of even attempting to do so, as they perceive the odds to be stacked against them. Ironically, given the difficulties with which they are faced, women are more likely than men to follow through on their repayments.

To combat these circumstances, they need advice, technical assistance and solutions, such as longer-term loans, low interest rates, repayment grace periods and alternative collateral options – for example, business assets instead of land. And in times of crisis, extra support is needed in the form of grants or loans with favourable conditions.

Access to technology

For small businesses, it’s critical to be able to receive and make payments easily and access credit at the click of a button. In Ghana, for example, Ecobank and MTN have successfully rolled out a digital micro-lending service. This kind of digital platform enables both customers and businesses to follow lockdown protocols, and with the added benefits of increased productivity and lower costs, their use has grown exponentially. However, the gender gap arises here, too. African women are about 45 percent less likely to be online than men, and they need assistance with both access and training.

Access to education

Education needs to focus on developing entrepreneurial skills, such as planning, launching and managing a business, mastering the necessary technology, and financial literacy that empowers women to run a business and access funding when it’s time to scale up. Personal initiative training is another important element, teaching women to be proactive and to persevere despite difficulties, giving them resilience in difficult times.

Extending training to younger girls is crucial, as it primes them for future success and reduces the chances that they will leave school and/or fall pregnant. Schools such as Reekworth in Zimbabwe and Rwanda are key players in this regard, focusing on providing transformative, globally relevant education, including entrepreneurship training.

Access to mentoring and resources

Partnerships with businesses that can mentor female entrepreneurs and provide access to funding, business services and other resources can be extremely successful. Initiatives such as the Anzisha Prize programme help to facilitate these kinds of partnerships by identifying and training high-potential, young African entrepreneurs, then connecting them to mentors and funding opportunities.

The role of governments

To enable the empowerment of female entrepreneurs, governments need to implement gender-sensitive policies and other supportive initiatives, such as offering tax incentives for businesses that invest in or outsource to women-led SMEs. Although there is still a long way to go, we are seeing steps in the right direction. For example, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s target of ensuring that at least 40 percent of goods and services procured by public entities should be sourced from women-owned businesses, and his commitment to engage with financial services on their behalf.

Given the opportunity, women are naturally enterprising and resilient, and their economic influence in their families and the community is transformative. If historical inequalities are addressed and remedied, and the right initiatives and policies are put in place, there is a real possibility that the post-pandemic world could be a safer, more sustainable and more abundant world for us all.

Melissa Mbazo-Ekpenyong is the deputy director of the Anzisha Prize programme.

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE





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