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Entrepreneurial universities on the agenda in Cantabria spurs Spanish university-business collaboration and entrepreneurship

On the 27th-28th February the second International Encounter on Experts on Entrepreneurship took place in Santander run by the University of Cantabria. There was in interesting mix of speakers including Prof. Paul Hannon,  Chief Executive from the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship, Andy Penaluna from Swansea Metropolitan University and Enterprise Educators UK , Juliet Edwards from the DG Education & Culture (European Commission) and Rebecca Allinson from the policy-consulting firm, Technopolis.


Paul Hannon’s presentation explored the nature of the entrepreneurial university, the entrepreneurial HEI leader and called for action from European HEIs. The NCEE have taken a very positive lead in discussions around the entrepreneurial university and promoting this (primarily) within the UK context.


Andy Penaluna linked neuroscience with the teaching and mentoring entrepreneurs and discussed pedagogic approaches to teaching entrepreneurship. The talk really challenged educators to think about how they taught entrepreneurship particularly in teaching the entrepreneurial mindset. The concept of divergent (creative) thinking being compared with convergent (problem solving) being two skills needed in entrepreneurial thinking was very insightful.


Juliet Edwards provided a background from the European Commission perspective (particularly DG Education & Culture) highlighting how Horizon 2020 is contributing to, and supporting, the developing of university-business collaboration and entrepreneurial mindsets.


The case of Coventry University, 2011 Entrepreneurial University of the Year (UK) was presented by Ian Dunn, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Student Empowerment). Coventry has one of the highest rates of working with business in the UK (over 10,000!) supporting their largely SME regional economic base. Their use of Partnership Relationship Management (PRM) techniques includes having over 100 staff dedicated to supporting their collaboration with local industry and an integrated partnership management system (they need it for so many collaborations!).


In interesting example of cooperation in curriculum development and delivery was provided by Steven van Cauteren from Acerta, a professional service firm out of Belgium are partnering closely with Hogeschool Gent to support local business. They are working on a combined offering for local business in the creation of business plans and supporting entrepreneurial initiatives.


The University of Sheffield are very active in providing entrepreneurial career pathways integrated within their local community. An interesting program including the ‘Making Ideas Happen’ an undergraduate course linking community groups with business students to create a business plan addressing the communities most pressing needs. An enterprise programme provides students and interestingly also to alumni (up until 5 years after graduation) with access to finances, space and support to develop their idea. Further activities include a weekly skill build sessions on enterprise and entrepreneurship, as well as an online Summer School, Summer Entrepreneurs Bootcamp and Social Innovation Programme involving researchers from within the university.


The University of Sheffield  will be hosting the 8th International Entrepreneurship Educators Conference takes place on 11th-13th of September with a call for Interactive Session Contributions closing in May.


Santander Universities was represented by Deputy Director, Simon Bray. Established in 1996, it is an interesting construction created by Banco Santander supporting such areas as teaching and research, international cooperation, knowledge and technology transfer, entrepreneurial initiatives, student mobility, and innovation. It was refreshing to see a business committed to supporting HEIs in their entrepreneurial activities rather than creating their own entrepreneurial competition or initiative which may not necessary support HEIs or fit in with their curriculum planning. More info can be found at:


The example of the Münster University of Applied Sciences was presented highlighting their partnering approach which has increased third-party income to become 1/3 of the university’s budget. Whilst not engaging in entrepreneurship teaching or spin-out support to a high degree, the task of directing the university is indeed entrepreneurial. Their Partnership Stairway Model continues to be a popular tool of choice by managers or university-business relationships.


Overall, a big congratulations should go to the University of Cantabria for organising the forum in order to push forward the discussion of the entrepreneurial university forward within their region. Our research (as well as anecdotally) shows that activities such as these have been shown to really elevate the topic in focus, putting on the agenda of the local region and provide a stimulus for development. Thanks also to Ana Fernández Laviada for her excellent and patient hospitality as well as to the Spanish for creating tapas.. aah, until we meet again!


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