L. Bengtsson

Lund University (SWEDEN)
Universities’ strategies to become more entrepreneurial (Etzkowitz, 2003) and proactive (Clark, 1998) in the economic development of our societies have spurred much research mostly focused on the transfer of research knowledge to industry and/or to new firms through academic entrepreneurship (Rothaermel et al, 2007). Even though student innovation and entrepreneurship is much more prevalent and creates more value to society than academic entrepreneurship (Wennberg et al, 2011) it is much less researched compared to academic entrepreneurship (Grimaldi et al, 2011). Systematic knowledge on universities’ strategies and activities for student innovation and entrepreneurship is lacking. In order to remedy the lack of knowledge four case studies of Nordic universities’ strategies and practices for student innovation and entrepreneurship will be reported in this paper. Each university has chosen a unique strategy to work with student innovation and/or student entrepreneurship.

The four universities are; Aalto University (Finland), Chalmers Technical University (Sweden), Lund University (Sweden) and Norwegian Technical University (Norway). The four case studies focus on how each university has developed capabilities and resources for student innovation and entrepreneurship services. In three of the four universities the strategy process has been bottom-up, i.e., individual university teachers have initiated the student innovation or entrepreneurship services without any approval from the university top management. In a later stage it has been incorporated into the university’s formal strategies and structures.

In the analysis section of the paper the four university’s strategies and corresponding capabilities is divided into a two-by-two matrix, where we differentiate between student innovation (students supporting existing firms) and student entrepreneurship (students establishing new firms) on the one hand. On the other hand we differentiate between new to the region/new to the company knowledge and improved knowledge.

This creates four types of university strategies for student innovation/entrepreneurship:
1) student entrepreneurship based on (new) research knowledge (surrogate entrepreneurship);
2) student entrepreneurship based on students’ own knowledge (student entrepreneurship);
3) student innovation based on new firm knowledge (student corporate venturing); and
4) student innovation based on improving existing firm knowledge (student improvement support).

Aalto University has primarily chosen the student innovation strategies (student improvement support and student corporate venturing) originally using industrial design students and teaming them up with primarily other types of engineering students. Chalmers University has primarily chosen to work with the new knowledge strategies, i.e., student surrogate entrepreneurship and student corporate venturing. Lund University and the Norwegian Technical University has primarily chosen the improved knowledge strategies, i.e., student improvement support and student entrepreneurship.

The paper will describe how each university has developed capabilities needed to execute these strategies as well as performance for these strategies. The paper contributes to the knowledge of student innovation and student entrepreneurship activities at universities as well as gives examples of how such activities might be strategized and organized.