Bring innovation onto campus, expert urges

September 28, 2001

Universities have a vital role to play in the economic regeneration of local communities by fostering an enterprise culture, according to the head of Northumbria's Northern Economic Research Unit.

Ian Stone, who organised a conference run jointly by Northumbria University and Krakow University of Economics, said that entrepreneurship was not only about business creation.

"Teaching entrepreneurship is not just so that graduates will set up their own companies. The real question is how it enables those working in companies to behave in a more innovative fashion," Professor Stone said.

"The changing nature of the public sector also means opportunities to function in a more entrepreneurial manner."

The two-day conference in Newcastle upon Tyne included debate on research presented by Jan Targalski of Krakow that showed that only a low number of graduates from its entrepreneurship degree went on to set up their own businesses.

Other papers drew parallels between enterprise to regenerate Poland and Northeast England. The region has put universities at the heart of its development strategy in an attempt to boost its enterprise base.

Universities in Krakow are also involved in developing enterprise as part of the restructuring of the post-communist economy.

Professor Stone said: "There is room in all courses to incorporate entrepreneurship and a clear idea of the external environment. We have been a bit slow in the UK, and many universities are only just grappling with the issue of how to become more entrepreneurial themselves... they claim to be able to teach the secrets of entrepreneurship, but do not act on these principles themselves."

Research into the enterprise roles undertaken by Northumbria staff shows that nearly all of them took part in external activities from business placements to consulting and schools liaison.

"I found high levels of support for entrepreneurial business activity. Despite the old idea that academics want to remain pure and theoretical, staff also recognise how vital it is for students to make connections with the workplace," Professor Stone said.

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