How to foster enterprising talent from university?
“The greatest risk is not to take risks. In such a fast changing world, the only strategy guaranteed to fail this that of not taking risks”. This phrase from Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, sums up the spirit that has driven thousands of entrepreneurs on their way to success. Risks have to be taken in order to triumph, but it is also necessary to have solid basis to guarantee a promising future. In this sense, university training plays a fundamental role.
In Spain, enterprising activity has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, but the figures are still far from those of other countries of the world. According to OECD data, Spain is at the tail in figures of entrepreneuring, alongside countries like Italy and Bulgaria. Just 2.6% of the adult population dares to embark on their own business, but those who do so hold on for longer than in other countries; the survival rate of new business projects in Spain is above that found in places like France or Italy.
The Spanish entrepreneur is a university product
According to the Map of Entrepreneuring 2017 published by the South Summit start-ups platform, 82% of Spanish entrepreneurs are men aged between 25 and 44. 96% of these new entrepreneurs are trained to university level and a large majority come from engineering.
Regarding the structure of the companies, almost all are smes with a maximum of 2 or 3 partners. The most developed business areas are those related to the new technologies (fintechs, enhanced reality, etc.), health and entertainment. One interesting point is that 48% of entrepreneurs are recurrent, in other words they have had more than one business.
Main barriers on entrepreneuring
The main obstacle on opening a business in Spain is fear of failure, and it is hardly surprising: according to the South Summit report, only 14% of recent start-ups managed to survive beyond the first two or three years.
The IMF has analysed the obstacles preventing business growth in our country. The main brakes on entrepreneuring are:
- Licenses and permits
- Lack of incentives from the administrations
The IMF alerts over the excessive existence of micro-companies in Spain and stresses the need to increase investment in R&D to improve competitiveness.
"Spain is at the tail in figures of entrepreneuring, alongside countries like Italy and Bulgaria"
Training in entrepreneuring
These problems will largely be overcome from the area of training, and it is here where the University will undoubtedly play an essential role, which in fact it is already playing in aspects such as the creation of new start-ups and in fostering new business initiatives.
Today numerous entrepreneurs have started their professional degree because their teachers managed to detect and strengthen those special aptitudes that make a pupil a future successful professional.
Among the initiatives started up by the universities to train students in entrepreneuring, we might highlight the following:
- Entrepreneur programmes: the new educational programmes include study routes that seek to develop students’ personal skills and to focus them on the business field. The aim is to draw from and promote the students’ extracurricular competencies or skills and to turn them to achieving business projects. Practically all Spanish universities have specific programmes or services aimed at promoting entrepreneuring. We might mention the UAB-Emprèn Program of Barcelona Autonomous University, the Compluemprende office of Madrid’s Complutense University, the Zitek program of the University of the Basque Country or the Emprende service of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, as examples of this.
- Prizes for the best initiatives: the different universities are promoting competitions to reward business projects pushed forward from the student environment. One example of this is the Startup Lab Entrepreneuring Competition of Barcelona Autonomous University, which is now in its third edition. The aim of the contest is to accelerate the start-up of technological initiatives. In this year’s edition, the participants had to resolve challenges related to sustainable development.
- Collaboration agreements: pacts were established with institutions and companies for students to do specific practice there and acquire direct experience of the business world. The purpose was to bring students into contact with a real environment as early as possible. According to the teachers, this is the best way to check their potential and to guide them towards a tangible goal.
Drive from the companies
There are also many examples of collaboration between universities and companies to foster entrepreneuring. Through its Santander Universidades, Banco Santander has invested in education and promoted projects in Spain, Mexico and Brazil for more than 20 years. One of its latest initiatives is the creation of a platform connecting entrepreneurs and universities around the world, and which gives support in project development. The initiative, which is called Santander X, allows students to access events and resources for entrepreneurs. For their part, the universities can publish their entrepreneuring calls, events or programmes on the platform.
Aside from the banking sector, there are also other business areas which have placed their sights on youngsters with initiative. One example is the Iberdrola Universities Programme, which provides students with a series of training resources to attract talent and encourage research.
Challenges of the future
The university’s role as a driving force behind new business projects was one of the points discussed by the IV Universia Rector International Meeting, held in Salamanca in May.
The event gathered more than 600 rectors from 26 countries, representing an educational community of 10 million university students. The rectors highlighted the need for university to lead the technological revolution and to apply innovative educational methods to drive entrepreneuring among the new generations. Those attending stressed the convenience of strengthening bonds with business and encouraging students to acquire the necessary skills to lead their own projects.