Project introduction and background information
The Entrepreneurial Academic Consultancy Training (E-ACT) and the skills course Pursuing & Realising Entrepreneurial Projects (PREP) are part of the MSc Entrepreneurship Track at Wageningen University, which started in 2014. E-ACT provides students the possibility to work in an interdisciplinary team on a “real world” entrepreneurial project for an external client. Specific parts of this project have been developed with funding from the Climate-KIC MSc Label Programme.
Wageningen University has committed itself to giving more attention to entrepreneurship in education in the Profile and Performance Agreements with the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Wageningen University can play an important role in laying the foundation for future entrepreneurs. In an ideal world, the Wageningen entrepreneurs are able to combine innovative ‘Wageningen’ domain-specific knowledge with exemplary entrepreneurship competencies (like opportunity identification, risk-taking, entrepreneurial self-efficacy). Such focus on entrepreneurship demands specific educational principles, namely:
- the centrality of complex problems as a starting point for business opportunities;
- the importance of novelty and creativity necessary to solve problems, add value, look for new solutions and to open new perspectives, start new initiatives, and to take responsibility;
- the importance of personal values and self-involvement, learning by doing, starting new initiatives;
- the combination of exploration and exploitation; it is not only about initiating new things, but also about realising and improving projects in existing businesses;
- the importance of engagement with significant others: interdisciplinary, and intercultural competence are of extreme importance to inspire and convince potential investors, inspire others, bridging different viewpoints, convincing people to break with existing conventions and embrace alternative solutions, and create winning teams.
Objective and expected outcomes
Therefore Wageningen University has started to develop a coherent MSc program on entrepreneurship; the master track entrepreneurship.
One of the pillars of the new master track entrepreneurship is the development of an entrepreneurial academic consultancy training (in the jargon: the EACT). Academic Consultancy Training (ACT) provides students the possibility to work in a team on a “real world” project for an external client. Projects are commissioned by firms, institutes, governmental or non-governmental organizations. ACT projects that are being commissioned can get an ‘Entrepreneurship’ label if they not only focus on specific Wageningen domain content but also on the development of a valorization path, a business model or a concrete market (e.g. new product development).
Adjacent to the EACT students follow a new developed entrepreneurial skills course PREP: Pursing & Realising Entrepreneurial Projects. Following PREP, adjacent to an EACT project, offers students the opportunity to follow guest lectures from successful entrepreneurs and role models from industry, to deepen their knowledge on entrepreneurial projects and to get extra guidance and coaching related to their entrepreneurial projects. Theoretically, this has added value in many ways, since it helps students to go into more depth on this specific business topic and it supports students to become (more) ‘business-wise’. In addition, PREP facilitates group discussions between students from the different EACT projects in order to create overarching knowledge in addition to project-specific knowledge. As such, it helps also commissioners to get even more out of their commissioned entrepreneurial projects.
Results and learnings
- Develop a network and routine for acquisition and selecting high quality entrepreneurial projects
- Develop an entrepreneurial skills module for students that effectively complements the entrepreneurial challenges students face in such projects
- To describe specific entrepreneurial coaching and facilitation practices for the academic consultancy training program;
- To attract, motivate and update coaches and experts for guiding in entrepreneurial projects;
- Experiment, test and implement peer-learning mechanisms to stimulate inter-project learning
- Possibility to integrate meaningful practical, hands-on, entrepreneurial experience into all the Wageningen educational programs (experience which many students lack as not everybody will be involved in start-up activities);
- The number of entrepreneurial projects submitted outnumbers the projects that can be executed yearly; Currently 20-40 entrepreneurial projects are being conducted each year;
- There is high demand from companies for entrepreneurial students;
- Many commissioners of entrepreneurial ACT projects come back each year;
- Students evaluate this course as highly valuable for their future careers.
- Make sure that there is a strong alignment between skills course and project challenges in terms of learning outcomes, activities and schedule;
- Make sure that all stakeholders involved in such projects (commissioners, academic advisors, experts, coaches, etc.) speak the same (entrepreneurial) language to avoid frustration.
- Entrepreneurial skills courses should be given by academics who are active as entrepreneurs, or closely associated with start-up ecosystems.