Importing Entrepreneurial Ecosystem to Universities

A guide on how universities can set up in-house innovation centre.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will soon take over nearly most of our day-to-day operational work. Human efforts will be replaced by robots. But wait, there is way ahead.

Creating an entrepreneurial mindset for our future generation will help us tackle real-world problems and not theoretically, but through practical and realistic solutions.

In today’s world, setting up an innovation centre in university is really important as earlier humans used to compete with other human beings for survival. Today, humans have to not only compete against other human beings but also with robots and frontier technologies.

Here is a step by step guide on how to create an innovation centre for universities and other educational systems:

I. Developing an Innovation Centre Strategy:

While setting up the long term and short term goals for innovation centre, its impact on students, financial stability, ecosystem development and skill development should be taken into account.

The innovation centre should also have a structure of agreement on operational elements. scouting location for entrepreneurs, type of ideas to be considered for the fund (early stage, advanced etc.), duration of acceleration, equity agreement etc., need to have definite agreement structure.

II. Legal Setup & Fund Management:

Legal & Fundraising structure needs to be set up at this stage. A General Partner (GP), who has been there done that in terms of fundraising for funds and has a portfolio of startups under his belt as a basic requirement and the university acts as one of the Limited Partner (LP).

Fundraising efforts can be focused locally and a fund strategy should be created which helps disseminate capital for startups.

III. Innovation Center Operations:

This is the final stage of plugging the entrepreneurial ecosystem in universities. At this stage, Ideas turn into commercially viable products/solutions.

Innovation Center Operations can be further divided into the following:

1. Idea Scouting and Shortlisting: Through competitions, boot camps and hackathons, innovative ideas can be scouted and they can be part of the accelerator program.

Ideas can be scouted internally through Ideation workshop within the university, or externally by conducting hackathons along with other college students or through a scouting web application.

Idea Shortlisting is an ongoing due-diligence effort, hence certain guidelines need to be set up for qualification of ideas.

2. Acceleration Program: After the ideas are scouted and selected, they are put into an acceleration program.

During the Accelerator Program, the ideas literally turn into reality through mentoring, coaching and tutoring the selected entrepreneurs. Teams are formed, prototypes are made and then they get launched in front of investors who will potentially fund the idea and in front of customers who will potentially invite the teams for a pilot. The entire process from team forming to launching can take up to a minimum of five months.

3. Innovation Center Ecosystem: To keep the process of scouting ideas and acceleration program continuous, an ecosystem should be created which can help students to work on their ideas beyond the acceleration program. Tools like ongoing mentorship, legal & business startup training from expert professionals should be provided from universities end to nurture their student’s entrepreneurial journey.

If universities act and apply this model to an innovation centre in their campuses, students will develop the mindset of critical thinking, with the ability to understand how to bring practical solutions while facing real-world challenges.