Denis Kovalevich, the co-founder of TechnoSpark, told about how to start technological entrepreneurship at universities and about the tools of a new government initiative called University Technological Entrepreneurship Platform.
Technology entrepreneurship in many countries around the world is a critical driver of the economy. Entrepreneurs and their startups create the majority of new jobs. How to ensure that the number of technology companies also grows in Russia, and that students have the opportunity to start a business while still studying at a university?
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin put forward 42 strategic initiatives for public discussion, that had been previously approved by the Council for Strategic Development and National Projects. Many of these initiatives concern issues of both technology and education.
A project named University Technological Entrepreneurship Platform is very characteristic in this regard.
This initiative will allow students to discover their entrepreneurial potential while still studying at universities. Nowadays, almost a quarter of all startups begin while studying at a university.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Index, for now Russia does not have a high level of entrepreneurial activity and only occupies the 80th position in the rating. The problem is an insufficient number of technology companies and startups.
Economy growth requires ten thousands of startups, but they can emerge only if we have hundred thousands of new entrepreneurs. And not many risk to become them. As a result, mechanisms of the innovation ecosystem, such as accelerators, incubators, subsidies and other types of support, work almost in vain.
Russian students are also reluctant to start entrepreneurial activities. While in the rest of the world 25% of all startups are born during the course of study, it is only 3% in Russia. For the last academic year, only 600 “graduation startups” were made in all Russian universities, only 100 of which developed further in real business.
As a reaction to this problem, the University Technological Entrepreneurship Platform initiative emerged. The program of a full-scale encouragement of such entrepreneurship should transform the university environment into a place for launching new startups.
A large-scale training of students’ entrepreneurial skills will allow to involve energetic young people in technological entrepreneurship. It will enable those who still study to try the role of an entrepreneur and to develop their skills in a safe environment.
According to the program, the next step in learning the basics of business and in training technological entrepreneurship skills will be the students’ participation in new startup studios.
The created network of university startup studios will allow them to choose the most suitable idea for them from a hundred of verified technological ideas and hypotheses on new businesses. In these studios, students will learn to create startups from scratch using quite professional investments.
And in order to provide a student with the chance to participate in technology business without quitting their university, there should be the option of a year-long startup leave. It is similar to an academic leave, but for the purpose of creating a startup. Young people can experience working in real business while having the guaranteed right to graduate from their university. The new program also provides for other forms of subsidies for university startups.
The range of tools assembled in the University Technological Entrepreneurship Platform initiative seems relevant. I suppose that such mechanisms indeed can work, involving more and more students and graduates in entrepreneurial activity.