Who benefits from academic research into entrepreneurship? Part Two.

In October 2022, the Entrepreneurial Mindset Network held an interactive webinar on the theme "Who benefits from academic research: academics, universities, entrepreneurs or society?"

We discussed:

1) What are the benefits of entrepreneurship research for entrepreneurs?

2) What are the benefits for society?

3) How can we make research lessons more widely accessible and impactful?

Our speakers were:

Bob Bastian, SHINE Project Founder, Italy 🇮🇹

Stefan Chichevaliev, SHINE Project Founder, North Macedonia 🇲🇰

Yancy Vaillant, SHINE Project Founder, Spain🇪🇸

The event was moderated by Paul Coyle, SHINE Project Founder, France🇫🇷

We were pleased to receive registrations from people in 13 countries: Albania🇦🇱, France🇫🇷, Ghana🇬🇭, Ireland🇮🇪, Italy🇮🇹, Malta🇲🇹, Morocco🇲🇦, North Macedonia🇲🇰, Portugal🇵🇹, South Africa🇿🇦, Spain🇪🇸, Tajikistan🇹🇯 and Türkiye🇹🇷.

The analysis, shown below, summarises the issues and identifies recomendations for action by entrepreneurs, educators and HE leaders. This analysis will continue to inform the actions to be taken by the SHINE Project, in meeting its objective to create practical know-how, so that HEIs can scale up the number or people in society who gain benefits (economic, social and cultural) from entrepreneurship in HE.

How to reference this sumary: Bastian, B., Chichevaliev, S., Coyle, P. and Valliant, Y., 2022, Who benefits from academic research into entrepreneurship?, Entrepreneurial Mindset Network, accessed [insert date], <www.shine-project.eu/society/academic-research-2>.

The beneficiaries of entrepreneurship research 

  1. We started by discussing who should benefit from entrepreneurship research and identified possible beneficiaries: academics; students; Higher Education Institutions; entrepreneurs; society; government/policy makers.
  2. We asserted that there are potentially large benefits for society and went onto say that we need to find ways to describe, quantify and evidence those benefits.
  3. In further discussion we noted that there are there are a lot of additional actors within entrepreneurial ecosystems e.g. financial partners, the existing business community, not only new but established entrepreneurs. 
  4. We talked about being clear about how the various actors influence and interact with each other e.g. understanding the individual entrepreneur and the individual academic, how they interact with each other and and how they fit within the broader policy context.

Image Credit: Pixabay

What might entrepreneurs not know about the value of research?

  1. Research can provide practical advice for entrepreneurs eg tools to support decision making processes.
  2. Research findings can be applied throughout the stages of the entrepreneurial journey: from how to develop an idea, to how to how to create a viable business model etc
  3. Research can help entrepreneurs to compensate for a lack of experience. Research case studies give examples of actions that have led to success and failure, and this can help people to not repeat mistakes that have been made by other entrepreneurs.
  4. Research can help SMEs to understand how as a small business they can often be more innovative than  large corporations.
  5. Research can help entrepreneurs to realise that other entrepreneurs have already “been there, done that”, and that valuable lessons can be drawn from examinations that have been made of previous practice.
  6. Empirical data helps entrepreneurs to understand the local and national ecosystems, and the international context, in which they must develop and implement their business plans.
  7. Research helps entrepreneurs to see practice that has been established over time and the ongoing development of entrepreneurship theory and practice.

How accessible is entrepreneurship research to entrepreneurs?

  1. If research is primarily shared via publications in journals, these publications are likely to be prohibitively expensive for other audiences eg small business owners and social enterprises.
  2. The academic language used in journals may create a communication barrier for entrepreneurs, the general public, students, policy & decision makers, financial partners. 
  3. The use of language to communicate research findings needs to be sensitive to, and adapted to, the needs of each audience or group of people.

What roles can researchers play?

  1. Researchers can help to demonstrate that there are many different kinds of entrepreneurship not just activities that focus on technology.
  2. For research to be relevant to entrepreneurship, researchers need to be proactive about being closely connected to the entrepreneurs that they are attempting to understand and help. They need to make the effort to understand what's actually happening on the ground.
  3. It is a problem when researchers only talk amongst themselves. It's good to seek out other perspectives and not be trapped in a silo/particular area of research literature. Entrepreneurship research is of interest to a wide variety of academic disciplines: business, engineering, health, design etc.
  4. Researchers can help to showcase how a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem often arises through necessity e.g. the specific needs of a particular region and smart specialisation.
  5. Recommendations, arising from research findings, must take into account the context and culture in which the recommendations will be implemented. What works in one content is not guaranteed to work in another e.g. there are differences between rural regions and cities.
  6. Research can provide much-needed insight into the relationship between theory and practice.
  7. It can be noted that the relative value placed upon theory versus practice varies from country to country.
  8. Using a variety of research dissemination mechanisms can help eg journals, blogs, videos, white papers, meetings etc
  9. It helps for researchers to think of themselves as a chameleon, changing and adapting to the surrounding context and responding to the diversity of actors in the ecosystem.
  10. Academic research can continue to put the spotlight on entrepreneurship in terms of policy making at the regional, national and European levels.
  11. .Research helps to gradually inform the vocabulary, and influence the content, of policy debates e.g. about employment, women in the labour market and immigration.

How can researchers present their findings and evidence?

  1. Know how to present quantitative data to evidence findings and recommendations.
  2. Identify a range of indicators eg return on investment, value for money, number of new businesses established, sustainability of startups after one, two and three years.
  3. Know how to present compelling stories using qualitative data
  4. Appreciate that some results and impacts may not be known in the short to medium term. Therefore, longitudinal data is needed and this may be at odds with shorter term funding cycles.
  5. Appreciate that the current focus on entrepreneurship research has its origins in what was initially a very small interest 30 or 40 years ago.
  6. Don’t only describe immediate results from research but try to look forward to the possible implications of current investigations for the future.

What do the leaders of HEIs need to consider?

  1. Embrace change and challenge outdated ways of working.
  2. Create a better understanding of the enablers and barriers to organisational change and transformation in HE.
  3. Help staff, not just students, to develop the entrepreneurial mindset.
  4. Support academics who want to invest time working out how to become more entrepreneurial
  5. Offer more support for the creation of more startups. 
  6. Invest in teams that can offer much-needed support i.e. tech transfer, knowledge exchange, spinoffs, patents, commercialisation of IP.
  7. Acknowledge the difficulties small business has interacting with an HEI and remove the barriers. 
  8. Help students, staff and stakeholders to understand the role of the HEI in its geographical location.
  9. Be aware of national policy and also lobby Government for change, because it helps when Government policy and organisational strategy are aligned.
  10. Continue to aim for greater impact in society, in the ecosystem
  11. Create a debate about how successful societal impact can be measured and evidenced.

What might educators do to help?

  1. Make good use of business plan competitions that are open to teams made up of a range of academic disciplines.
  2. Appreciate that entrepreneurship education is not just about startups, incubators and accelerators. It's about fundamental entrepreneurial skills or soft skills (proactiveness, leadership, resourcefulness) that can contribute to making a more entrepreneurial society. 
  3. Develop entrepreneurial thinking for all students, including those who want to be employed and build a career (eg accountants, engineers and doctors) not just those who want to start a business.
  4. Try to understand the nature of the problem of scaling up existing entrepreneurship provision.
  5. Identify the solutions to achieving greater participation rates amongst students, academics and academic disciplines.
  6. Stimulate more conversations about the development of the curriculum, how you teach students, how they're going to be employed, what role they're going to play in society. 
  7. Go beyond power point presentations and books. Provide action based learning that supports skills development.
  8. Reach out to, and collaborate with, the professional support staff who provide a range of services that support entrepreneurship, including legal and financial advice.
  9. Read the national policy for entrepreneurship and check out if the local town/city has its own innovation policies.
  10. Anticipate how the world is going to be in 10 or 20 years and adapt education to prepare students for that future. 

How will this webinar inform the SHINE Project?

  1. It will help to continue the clarificarion of  this agenda and what the key issues are.
  2. We will continue to focus on what works and try to create recommendations for action.
  3. It will help us to advocate for change in HE and clarify the timescales involved.
  4. We will describe the likely barriers to change and suggest how they might be overcome.
  5. We will invite more people to join this conversation.
  6. We will try to diversify the participants beyond Higher Education.
  7. We will disseminate our findings in a range of ways eg articles in journals and podcasts.
  8. Over time we will create resources that can support people within their own national contexts including developing countries.