About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2024 Proceedings
Publication year: 2024
Pages: 2261-2266
ISBN: 978-84-09-59215-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2024.0621
Conference name: 18th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-6 March, 2024
Location: Valencia, Spain
Entrepreneurship as part of the curricula in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) stems back to the 1970s when the view on entrepreneurship changed and became something admirable. (Vesper and Gartner 1997) Today we see many HEIs that offer incubators, accelerators etc. for their students in order to support their entrepreneurial aspirations. An entrepreneur is a person who has an idea and is willing to organize it and develop it so that it, at the end, yields a profit for the company he or she has created. (Audretsch et al 2015)

The City of Helsinki initiated a collaborative network between the Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences (UASs) in Helsinki where they could gain financial and peer support for supporting students on their entrepreneurial path (Laine 2023). Arcada University of Applied Sciences (hereafter Arcada UAS) applied for this financial support and was accepted as one of the participants in the network. At Arcada UAS there had been a 15 ECTS course in entrepreneurship but never a pre-incubator nor incubator. The planning and preparation for the pre-incubator started in the spring 2022 while applying for the financial aid. A three-person team worked on both the financial part of the endeavour but equally on the pedagogical journey for the intended participants. The idea was to offer a community feeling that could support and develop the students and alumni’s business ideas and create a pre-incubator that nurtured innovation, support and confidence. (Fabricius et al 2019).

In the autumn of 2022 the first student group started the Becoming an Entrepreneur pre-incubator program in Arcada Entrepreneurship Hub (AEH). This program has been a success and within one year more than ten companies have been established by some of the approximately thirty participants. We now offer a vibrant pre-incubator program for potential entrepreneurs who apply to the program with a business idea in mind. During the ten week program the idea is pivoted, grown and refined so that at the end the student can opt to start a company and apply for funding. We also put a lot of effort on community building and see the strength that peer support and community support give the aspiring entrepreneurs. This is based on the ideas of the Finnish National Agency of Education (2017), as well as on similar thoughts by Leesman (2019), Henderson et al (2018) and White et al (2017).

In this article we will briefly look at the entrepreneurship education in HEIs and the soft skills and community building that contribute to entrepreneurship education. We elaborate on the successful program that we have developed and that has been very well received both by the students, our pre-incubator network as well as the investors. We will show some key factors that support entrepreneurship students in their development both considering the business idea but also on a social level nurturing the entrepreneurs own personal growth path. The method of this study is participant observation.
Community building, entrepreneurship, pre-incubator, peer to peer support.