P. Arusaar, M. Ahonen

University of Tartu (ESTONIA)
High level of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial ambition have influence on new jobs creation, economical growth and prosperity and national competiveness. According to the different surveys (GEM, 2014; GEDI, 2014), lack of entrepreneurial skills and knowledge are essential factors obstructing the growth of entrepreneurs and the start of new ventures in Estonia. This refers to the gaps in entrepreneurship education system in Estonia in providing practical entrepreneurship skills and development of entrepreneurial mindset.

In order to improve the current situation the European Social Fund project “Systematic development of entrepreneurship education at all educational levels in Estonia (EETA)” was started in January 2016. Systematic development of entrepreneurial skills across educational levels in Estonia creates prerequisites for the development of entrepreneurial mindset and growth of skills that enable graduates to start a company or contribute to startup development. Establishment of pre-incubation programmes by the institutes of higher education allows experience sharing and faster knowledge transfer between students and practitioners. Entrepreneurs as mentors have crucial role in guiding and inspiring learners.

The aim of the article is to introduce the development of pre-incubation model and implementation of its first stage in Estonian higher educational institutions in January – June 2016. It brings forth some challenges and opportunities of integrating pre-incubation model based startup entrepreneurship training extra-curriculum into entrepreneurship education in the framework of the EETA project.

Pre-incubation model developed in collaboration with project partners from educational institutions and start-up ecosystem includes three levels of activities: 1) inspiring, 2) involving (developing idea into business model and testing its validity), 3) accelerating. Pre-incubation model development is based on the Start-up Development Phases framework and covers the first two phases: ’Ideation’ and ’Concepting’.

Qualitative approach was used, the study applied practical action research (Clark & Creswell, 2010) method to monitor the development of pre-incubation process. Mills (2007) Dialectic Action Research Spiral model that involves four main step:
1) defining the area of focus,
2) reflecting and describing,
3) reviewing the literature, and
4) and making plan for corrective action was used.

For the data collection mainly qualitative data such as work-meeting notes, feedback and observations was gathered. In addition, feedback from start-up ecosystem partners from Estonia, pre-incubation annual action plans of three project major partner universities (University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology and Tallinn University) and implementation results of the pilot period (January – June 2016) were used. For the data analysis appropriate systematic analysis method were applied.

[1] Estonian Development Fund (2014). Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2014, the Estonian report.
[2] Estonian Development Fund (2014). Analysis of Estonian entrepreneurship ecosystem – Global Entrepreneurship Development Index report.
[3] Call for Action. Mills, G. E. (2007). Action Research: A guide for the teacher researcher, 3/e. Published by Merrill; Copyright 2007 by Pearson Education.
[4] Plano Clarck, V.l., & Creswell, J.W. (2010). Understanding Research: A consumer Guide. Pearson Publication, New Jersey, USA.