FOSTERING STUDENT ENTREPRENEURSHIP MINDSET THROUGH THE EMBEDDING OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENT TEAMS INTO START-UPS AND THE STUDY OF COMPANY-DRIVEN OPEN QUESTIONS

L. Brunie1, S. Ben Mokhtar1, D. Brac de la Perrière1, D. Fabrègue1, L. Tondu1, A. Cordier2, V. Delplanque2, A. Bertrand3, O. Coueffe3, H. Kosch3, E. Damiani4, S. Cimato4, I.A. Awada5, A. Olaru5, R. Wossidlo6, G. Fiorentino7, M. Lombardo7, F.S. Nucci7, O. Cramariuc8

1Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Lyon (FRANCE)
2La French Tech One Lyon Saint-Etienne (FRANCE)
3Universität Passau (GERMANY)
4Università degli studi di Milano (ITALY)
5Universitatea Politehnica din București (ROMANIA)
6Atos International Germany GmbH (GERMANY)
7Engineering Ingegneria Informatica (ITALY)
8Centrul IT pentru Stiinta si Tehnologie (ROMANIA)
FIT-Europe (“Future IT Leaders for a Multicultural, Digital Europe”) is a so Strategic Partnership for higher education action of the ERASMUS+ program. The consortium integrates 4 leading universities and 4 corporate partners from France, Germany, Italy, and Romania.

The project aims at designing and implementing a series of four one-week seminars, far beyond a classical student’s exchange framework or a new IT module.

Each of the four seminars is focused on a key technology (AI/ML/Big Data, IoT, robotics, and blockchain) and one related societal challenge (respectively, ethics, privacy, assisted living, and entrepreneurship).

This paper is focused on the seminar “Blockchain and Entrepreneurship”, held in Lyon in June 2021.Organized during a period of high Covid incidence, the seminar was held remotely.

The seminar gathered high level scientists from all Europe, technological experts from companies, all of them specialized in blockchain technology, experts of entrepreneurship ecosystems, and 20 students (5 students x 4 countries).

The diversity of the speakers allowed addressing multiple hot topics in the domain of blockchain, from scientific topics to applications and business impact of blockchain technology, and to start-up creation.

Week-long team projects were organized. Each team was composed of 5 students from the 4 universities. Each project was based on a challenge, i.e., an open question, raised by a start-up involved in blockchain innovation. Every afternoon was dedicated to the project work, so that the student teams were “embedded” into the start-ups and had the opportunity to interact with collaborators of the start-ups (CEO, CTO, technology experts).

In this paper, we focus on this specific part of the seminar, which was the most innovative in both its design and its implementation.

Prior to the seminar, we selected 4 innovative start-ups and asked them to formalize a challenge (i.e., an open question) that a student team would study during the week. Challenges addressed issues the start-ups were actually facing and for which the students were expected to bring new insight and real added value (e.g., benchmark of two blockchain technologies for supporting the company solutions, analysis of the issues to address the integration of high-throughput IoT data into the company blockchain platform...). Reciprocally, start-ups committed to exchange every day with their student team. Closing the seminar, the 4 teams presented their work in front of a jury of academics and entrepreneurs.

These projects were very successful: strong connections were established between the students and the start-ups; both were very motivated and learnt a lot from each other; students brought new insight to the companies; and they had the opportunity to actually integrate the life of a start-up. The work performed by the students met all expectations and was unanimously recognized by the jury as excellent.

Finally, it is noticeable that, in a survey realized at the end of the seminar, 50% of the students declared they planned to create or participate in the creation of a start-up in the next 5 years.

This paper will describe the organization of the seminar and team projects, the issues addressed, specifically in the context of distance learning, the lessons learnt, and the good practices this seminar allowed to identify.