Picture Credit Pixabay


In November 2022, this webinar addressed 3 Key Questions -

1) How are we currently helping students to create startups?

2) What do we need to do to give students a better chance of creating a successful and sustainable startup?

3) What are the challenges that we need to understand and overcome?


Bob Bastian, SHINE Partner,

Italy 🇮🇹

Enikő Koppány, SHINE Partner, Hungary 🇭🇺

Yancy Vaillant, SHINE Partner, Spain 🇪🇸

Moderator and rapporteur

Paul Coyle, SHINE Partner, France 🇫🇷


Registrations were received from participants in 15 countries:

Albania🇦🇱  China🇨🇳  France🇫🇷 

Dominican Republic🇩🇴  Hungary🇭🇺

Italy🇮🇹  Malta🇲🇹  Morocco🇲🇦

Pakistan🇵🇰  Poland🇵🇱  Scotland🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 

South Africa🇿🇦  Spain🇪🇸  Tajikistan🇹🇯

and Thailand🇹🇭.

How to reference this sumary:

Bastian, B., Coyle, P., Koppány, E., and Valliant, Y., 2022, How Higher Education supports startups, Entrepreneurial Mindset Network, accessed [insert date], <www.shine-project.eu/startups/startup-support>.

Video Clip: Bob Bastian

Setting the scene

The University of Pavia offers a Master Programme in International Business and Entrepreneurship for around 80 students per year.

Within the programme there are opportunities for students to learn how to become an entrepreneur. For example, there are two competitions, in which students have to write a business plan and try to co-create a business idea with their colleagues.

Not many graduates take the risk of going on to launch a startup; most get a more stable jobs eg as a manager or business consultant.

What works

The students have the benefit of meeting a wide range of people during their studies eg mentors, professors, PhD students and business angel investors.

It isn’t only students who specialise in entrepreneurship who are interested in entrepreneurship. In the university incubator, there are students who are studying engineering, medicine or biology.

An inter-disciplinary experience, that mixes disciplines from different disciplines, can help co-creation of good ideas.

The challenges

With limited experience of entrepreneurship, students often don’t know what they need to know in order to be successful in the business world. Would-be entrepreneurs tend to focus on their initial ideas and often fail to consider alternative options. They need to be encouraged to question their initial assumptions and helped to understand the value of co-creation.

It can be difficult to maintain contact with, and involve, alumni entrepreneurs.

The amount of available resources places a limit on what is possible. The more people there are, the more you can get done and the faster you can make progress. Academics have many different commitments which inevitably places a limit on the time that can spend on reflection or collaboration.

Video Clip: Enikő Koppány

Setting the scene

The University of Szeged offers a university-wide, centralised, programme for entrepreneurship and the the creation of startups, with around 3300 students enrolled per year.

A centralised approach has enabled the university to take a strategic approach and create a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurship and innovation that reaches every faculty, not just IT or economics.

The numbers of students involved is much higher than when startups courses were offered within the individual faculties.

What works

Students are highly motivated when they can work on topics and projects that they choose themselves. When students find the right challenge they are curious, motivated about the topic and they will work very hard.

It also helps if students can work on challenges suggested by companies and industry people, as the outcomes from these projects are more likely to be utilised.

The most successful startup teams are the ones who are have a team member who is coming from outside the university eg a local entrepreneur.

The challenges

It is important to try to connect students with local entrepreneurs, who can transfer his or her knowledge into the student startup team and help students to develop the right competencies.

The university is working to establish an Ambassador Program, whereby alumni, the young visionaries within the different disciplines, can serve as a role models to current students and be a team member of one of the startups.

It is crucial to find the right challenges for students to work on and it can take students 2 to 3 months to find the right idea.

Yancy Vaillant

Setting the scene

TBS is a business school with multiple campuses in France, Morocco and Spain.

In the early 2000s, TBS set up one of the first incubator systems in Toulouse, France, which now serves a number of other universities in the city and is the regional student incubator.

Those students who are attracted to incubation and business creation are not necessarily from the specialist entrepreneurship program but other programs such as fashion and real estate. Specialist entrepreneurship students tend to have an ambition to become an entrepreneurial manager and indeed they are very attractive to local businesses.

What works

Successful results can be gained by a cross-disciplinary approach that mixes business students with students from other disciplines eg engineering, arts, design, coding. It takes a while for them to speak the same language, but when they do, motivation is high and incredible projects come out of it.

The value that you can bring into the class through the alumni is tremendous. They can act as mentors and provide internships. They inspire students and give them confidence.

It is important to help students to see the entrepreneurial journey, the path they must take to a career in entrepreneurship. People are rarely successful at their first try and they need to know how to keep going until they are successful, without losing their reputation or going broke along the way.

The challenges

Understanding how to duplicate or replicate the success of Toulouse on the other TBS campuses.

Practical teaching techniques (eg hackathons, small group work, industry projects, mentorships) are very time intensive and require people to be willing to put in extra hours.

The evaluation system in higher education institutions rewards research and this can be demotivating for a professor who is committed to entrepreneurial teaching.

Other challenges identified in the discussion

  • Students wanting to be entrepreneurs but not knowing how to find a good idea for their business.
  • Low levels of financial literacy amongst students, with a focus on pitching for investment rather than business models, income and profitability.
  • Unrealistic expectations amongst students about how easy it will be to start a business, with a lack of appreciation of the many challenges they will have to overcome.
  • Having a clear idea of the knowledge and skills students will need to become entrepreneurs but not knowing if the people who teach them have those same abilities.
  • A lack of data about the number of startups created and their success in the medium to long term.
  • Influencing strategy within educational organisations to deliver better support entrepreneurship.
  • Campaigning for improved support from policies at the regional and national levels.

Comments on this webinar

The following comments on this webinar were received on LinkedIn:

"Universities have been supporting startups to the best of their abilities for decades. However, based on my observation of university incubators, there is a need for improvements. The most significant change, I believe, is to move from teaching entrepreneurship to mentoring students using serious project simulation. The challenge here would be dealing with a generation heavily influenced by get-rich-quick plans, and unrolling them in mentoring programs that take time to accomplish could be challenging. I noticed year after year that my students and young entrepreneurs are insanely non-patient." Rabii Outamha, Strategist | Business Advisor | Digital Marketing Consultant | Professor Researcher | Ph.D. Candidate in Management Science.

"Great video clips! We agree 'The most successful startup teams are the ones who are have a team member who is coming from outside the university eg a local entrepreneur.' Politechnika Wrocławska provides many opportunieties for academic startup teams to complete the team. We organise #WroclawTechDate and #GROWUPTECH program to meet this requirements." Akademicki Inkubator Przedsiębiorczości Politechniki Wrocławskiej.

Ideas for Future Webinars/Collaborations

The discussions led to suggestions for additional types of collaboration in the future:

  • Each partner could bring some students to a webinar, offering the chance for students from these different locations to meet each other and share their experiences of startups. 
  • This might lead to collaborative startup projects with teams composed of students from the different locations.

Reflections on the SHINE Project Organisation 

The discussions gave an opportunity to restate the purpose of the way in which the Project is organised:

The Project is organised in 4 conversations (students, startups, staff and society) so as to make best use of the available resources, accelerate progress and simplify communication:

  1. This webinar had a focus on startups but inevitably it also identified information that is relevant to the other three related conversations. 
  2. Issues of student enterprise skills and employability are relevant to the education of students
  3. Questions of institutional strategies to incentivise & reward are relevant to the engagement of staff in the transformation of Higher Education
  4. Understanding of how startups create value in society  (cultural, economic, environmental.)