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Flensburg University of Applied Sciences: Driving diversity in innovation

Punn Chatupanyachotikul

Are you interested in enhancing diversity in entrepreneurship and innovation? Meet our new organisational member Flensburg University of Applied Sciences. While we have been acquainted with Stefanie Jordt, Director of Entrepreneurial Development as an individual UIIN member for a couple of years already, it was a pleasure to catch up with her and colleague Carina Schmihing, Scientific Associate and lead of WINnovation, to learn more about the university’s external engagement and in particular their ambitious Women in Innovation (WINnovation) project, which recently kicked off.

Flensburg University of Applied Sciences is one of the partners of the flagship project WINnovation project, along with the European University of Flensburg and the Hanse Innovation Campus Lübeck. The WINnovation project aims at increasing the visibility of female innovators and understanding the self-image of innovative women. As Carina explains: “We live in a hegemonic social structure, where women have to deal with the issue of patriarchal systems. We want to enable them to find their ways to be innovative in science, in economics and in many other branches.”

Currently, four different tracks are being developed, including the School and Science Program, a cooperation with high-school teachers to put emphasis on gender stereotypes and how female connotated competencies such as empathy and networking are crucial qualities to innovation; a Mentoring program for female young professionals; a monthly WINspire innovation talk with inspiring female entrepreneurs and innovators, and the WINnovation ThinkFest, the project’s signature event in which the team will bring innovative women from different areas together with policymakers, media, students and young professionals to set up inspiring discussions. To foster the visibility of the project, increased marketing and branding efforts have been put into place and soon the team will kick-start a role model campaign throughout the country to spotlight successful innovative women that will inspire the younger generations to become innovators.

The three institutions are also firmly committed to advancing the research field of diversity in innovation internationally. For this reason, the WINnovation team is hosting its own track on Gender & Innovation Management at the ISPIM Innovation Conference.

To grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem, it is crucial to choose cooperation over competition”.

Located right by the sea at the border of Germany and Denmark, Flensburg University of Applied Sciences is a key player for the region, working closely with the European University of Flensburg and other partners from society, politics and industry, across disciplines and borders. With the focus on practically-oriented teaching, lifelong learning and innovation, the University’s active regional collaboration ensures that the education meets the requirements of both the job market and society. Moreover, with cross-pollination between research and development, teaching and knowledge transfer, the University ensures that both its teaching and research are cutting edge.   

This cross-pollination is also reflected in a unique regional collaboration at the Jackstädt Centre Flensburg: a joint institution of the economic departments of the European University and Flensburg University of Applied Sciences (FUAS). As a partner for companies, students, and science in research, teaching and knowledge transfer, the two universities collaboratively support entrepreneurship and SMEs – and with great success. Since its foundation in 2011, the Jackstädt Centre managed to acquire more than six million euros in third party funding (FUAS-only), helped establish more than 135 businesses and consulted on 565 business ideas from students. When asking about good practices for a shared institute, Stefanie explains “I can’t really describe how we’re working together, because it is just so natural for us to collaborate. We only have about 10.000 students in our region, so to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem it is crucial to choose cooperation over competition.”  

This connectedness is in the nature of the Jackstädt-team. “Collaborations are not necessarily harder because we are a smaller institution”, tells Stefanie, “Rather, because we are smaller, we are also very well connected, not only regionally, but also internally all students and staff know each other.” Classes are set up small to allow for direct and personal contact with the professors and regional companies collaborate heavily through assisting in entrepreneurship courses, providing guest lectures and mentorship for student entrepreneurs.   

Collaborations are not necessarily harder because we are a smaller institution. Rather, because we are smaller, we are also very well connected. 

Being a small institution, however, building collaborations outside the region or internationally proves to be challenging. Not only is it harder to reach out to international partners for startup support – which requires increased marketing efforts – but being located at the border of Denmark, the institution also encounters border issues. Next to language barriers, cultural differences complicate cross-border collaborations. “There is a mindset difference”, tells Stefanie. “Even for startups, for instance, the founding process is completely different. Where in Denmark start-ups can quickly register to become a company and measure their progress after a year, in Germany there is a lot of bureaucratic barriers, including paperwork, defining the right legal form and financing, that halt this speed.

To counter these issues, the Jackstädt-team puts great emphasis on entrepreneurship support, with a particular focus on green entrepreneurship, women’s entrepreneurship and diversity in innovation. The Jackstädt-team is also looking to incorporate more courses about inclusion, gender and innovation in the university curriculum and would love to hear from other global institutions in the UIIN Community how they find engaging teaching material on these brand-new topics to drive social and diverse innovation


Stefanie Jordt and Carina Schmihing

Do you have tips to share or would you love to connect and learn more about the University’s entrepreneurship initiatives?
Reach out to Stefanie Jordt via mail or visit the website www.winnovation.sh.


Images credits: Flensburg University of Applied Sciences

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