07 Oct 2021 22:34 IST

Strategies to embrace innovation in engineering colleges

Universities are in a pole position in creating start-up culture on campuses and promoting research.

Globally, some of the best tech companies — Google, Dell, Facebook, and Microsoft — were born on campus. Statistics show that companies coming out of campuses are disruptive and drive exponential value for the country, stakeholders, and the universities. India is yet to catch up with this trend. Bright students aspire for a well-paying jobs in MNCs or enrol themselves to a foreign university. Both these options may not represent the best value for the country, university and more importantly — students. 

Entrepreneurship presents a never-before opportunity for the brightest of the students to leapfrog asset generation. Entrepreneurs will be able to innovate, pursue their passion, leverage their skills with unlimited freedom. Today, India produces more unicorns than ever. There is enough venture capital available today, along with an ecosystem for building great start-ups.  

Why promote entrepreneurship?

Universities are in a pole position to catalyse this opportunity and benefit from entrepreneurship development. Entrepreneurship helps the commercialisation of research and can fund the enhancement of research and development within the university. With entrepreneurial mindset and energy, educational institutions can expand research opportunities and commercialisation possibilities. When there is an environment for students and researchers to learn, contribute, and encash, it becomes easier to attract talent and retain them.

The engagement with start-ups and contributing to development helps talent-starved start-ups, and provides monetary assistance to students similar to what scholarship can do. Entrepreneurship is the best possible option to reverse brain drain. Moreover, equity held in start-ups present a long-term income source for the university and ensures a realistic alternative revenue or asset creation source. An added benefit is that entrepreneurial activities ensure high visibility for the college in the press and brings much required accreditation and rankings from ranking agencies. That way, it also improves integration with industry in terms of joint development, IP licensing, and co-investment activities.

How can you promote entrepreneurship?

While there is an appreciation for universities supporting entrepreneurship, the question of how is mainly unanswered. Universities like PES University and S-Vyasa have made some great beginnings and seeing tremendous traction. Some of the strategies adopted by them could be a guideline for universities to embrace and listed below:

  1. Recognise entrepreneurship as a credible academic activity. Award credits and grades for the students and faculty engaged in such activities. Set up a formal process to ensure all activities of creating start-ups are recognised and rewarded.
  2. Universities need to think about being a support engine and think like a partner and the VC. Concepts of creating a venture studio integrated with a fund can enable much better returns in a shorter period.
  3. A dedicated team focusing on commercialising research and a specialist to help create start-ups is a must to achieve desired results. Structures that are aligned legally to ensure interests are commercially aligned are vital for sustaining such activities. Valuations should be in line with realities in the market and best done in the interest of the founders.
  4. Programmes that enable high-energy entrepreneurship can act as catalysts in university-based entrepreneurship. Venturethons, hands-on workshops, entrepreneur assistant programmes and dedicated entrepreneur helpdesk can add a lot to the energy on the campus. 
  5. Universities should leverage new-age communication tools like social media, live streaming and webinars to connect with capable students and faculty.

With the right programmes and mindset, universities are in a great position to make India the “Vishwaguru.” They only need a strong intent, experienced partner, and few baby steps to change fortunes for themself and the country.

       

      (The writer is Managing Partner, Co-Create Ventures and PESU Venture Labs.)