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Views and challenges on innovation and entrepreneurial education in Europe

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