...Achieving sustainable development goals with entrepreneurial technology
The challenges of “SET” entrepreneurship especially in Africa can be addressed if the following action-oriented approaches are adopted:
1) Obligatory introductory activities or modules should be offered for all undergraduate students throughout their course of study, influencing their mindset right from the beginning and creating awareness of the alternative career option as a “SET” entrepreneur. In addition, all students should be given the opportunity to attend seminars and lectures on this subject. Optional courses which should be open to students from different faculties and disciplines, and involve these students in team-based project work, are a useful means of spreading “SET” entrepreneurship across faculties and departments. Students who find the field interesting and attractive and who seek to get involved in voluntary entrepreneurship initiatives should be backed by the institution or facilitating organisations. All students should be exposed to the opportunity of acquiring entrepreneurship-related teaching and experiences.
2) Learning about “SET” entrepreneurship should assume a student-centred form of teaching, in which learning outcomes are clearly defined. It should also assume that students will themselves select which road to follow. This will require flexible course structures, a problem-solving approach supported by qualified academic staff, extensive learning resources, and opportunities for work placements and access to funding.
3) For teachers who are interested in the field, more training, in terms of theory and of innovative pedagogy and didactics, is needed and new teaching tools/methods tailored to the specific field of study will have to be developed. Some options for enhancing educator’s capability include: staff sabbaticals in enterprises, and for “SET” entrepreneurial development; curricula development funds; exposure to role models and examples; incentives, rewards and recognition; international educator exchanges; bursaries and support for personal development through educational programmes. 4) Institutions should have incentive systems for motivating and rewarding faculty staff, researchers and teachers in supporting students interested in exploiting entrepreneurial opportunities. Staff promotions in “SET” entrepreneurship departments and centres should be linked to entrepreneurship, among other criteria. Reward mechanisms should be “SET” up, based on achievements in furthering entrepreneurship and innovation, such as: companies started by students, number of patents, number of industrial projects, etc. The rewards might take the form of academic promotion and of pay, based on financial resources obtained from projects. In general terms, the academic value of research and activities in the entrepreneurial field should be acknowledged, and the working time that teachers devote to support students’ initiatives recognised. 5) From the perspective of educators, the teaching should balance theoretical and practical aspects, making use of: interactive and pragmatic methods; active self-learning; action-oriented pedagogies; group work; learning through projects; student-centred methods; learning by direct experience; methods for self-development and self-assessment. 6) Crossing the boundaries between different fields of study and different faculties/departments is a key to spreading “SET” entrepreneurship. One possible way is to create inter-disciplinary “laboratories”, in which students of business help put into practice business ideas of their partner students from faculties of technical and/or natural sciences. 7) Where appropriate examinations could be replaced with work on projects like a start-up project. Some students may be more motivated and better at working on concrete activities rather than writing. 8) Business representatives and entrepreneurs should be involved, and events organised where entrepreneurs present their experience (e.g. Life as a “SET” entrepreneur). Ideally, they should come from the faculty/school where the event is organised. To boost awareness and motivation of students, it is fundamental to use the power of examples (alumni, successful entrepreneurs, etc.). 9) “SET” Entrepreneurship teaching should be part of a broader entrepreneurial environment within the institution, with services to support students’ business ideas. High visibility is achieved through dedicated spaces, support for student activities and awards/rewards for success. Institutions should “SET” up pre-incubators (“hatcheries”) for undergraduate and graduate students, and provide access to on-campus or external incubators for graduates, post-graduates and researchers. There should be a focal point (‘one-stop shop’) within academic institutions that is well known to everyone (students and staff alike) and which acts as a central source of advice and information on business start-ups. 10) With the help of additional funding from the government or from industry, easy access to financial grants and seed/venture capital should be available for students who want to develop a viable business idea, either within an on-campus incubator or as a follow-up to a business plan competition. 11) A useful measure would be to ensure access to “entrepreneurship tutors” for all students. These would complement the main tutor on a master’s or doctoral thesis, and offer advice as to whether there is a business perspective to the work, and if so, how to capitalise on it. 12) Institutions should encourage the spontaneous initiative of students; encourage and support the foundation of student mini-companies or junior enterprises; award academic credits for activities carried out within student associations and for practical work on enterprise projects. 13) Promoting entrepreneurship education in the community should be part of a common and coordinated effort. Regional development agencies and tertiary institutions’ associations should provide clear directions about what contribution institutions could make to regional social and economic development strategies. Tertiary institutions should be considered as instruments of regional/national development. 14) There should be an increasing awareness that cooperation between higher education institutions and enterprises can generate a win-win situation for both parties. Teachers and students have something to contribute to enterprises, in terms of theoretical knowledge and also through the involvement of students in innovative ideas.
Besides the retooling strategies articulated, government and institutions should as a matter of urgency consider the following policy recommendations for immediate implementation.