THE COMPANY: INTEGRATING INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP COMPETENCIES

J. Trommelmans1, J. De Wachter1, S. De Cleyn2, L. De Roy1, W. Daems1

1Karel de Grote-University College (BELGIUM)
2iMinds (BELGIUM)
Engineering education has a long tradition of mathematical rigor and a thorough knowledge of science and technology. Most curricula are so focused on science and technology that there is an in-built tendency to turn our students into employees. The alternatives of becoming self employed or an entrepreneur seem to be ironed out of the curriculum.

In 2006 the Karel de Grote-University College decided to redesign the curriculum of the engineering department. The goal was to introduce a minor in which students are introduced to topics such as financial management, marketing, operations management… In 2010 we evaluated the minor and concluded that it was still too much based on classical ex cathedra teaching. We decided to introduce collaborative problem-based learning and reduced the theoretical courses in favor of a more hands-on approach in line with the theory of effectuation. The redesigned minor is called "The Company".

Its characteristics are:
1. it is a continuous effort encompassing both the bachelor and the master level of their studies. We do not believe in the positive effects of one-off initiatives
2. we aim at growth in specific competencies. Specifically we want to investigate the relation between innovation and entrepreneurship. This is done in collaboration with the Turku University of Applied Sciences, the Universitat Politècnica de València and the Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften Hamburg in the INCODE project (www.incode-eu.eu)
3. all students (freshmen to masters), coming from different technical fields (mechanics, electronics, electrical engineering, chemistry, biochemistry) regularly work together
4. collaborative problem-based learning is used throughout the four year program. Students build an e-portfolio of their work. This includes ideas for new products or services, drawings and sketches, pictures of prototypes, persona constructions, business plans etc.
5. "The Company" is led by the master students. They get a (limited) introduction to management and they have to apply this in real time as managers of “The Company”. The CEO, the director of projects and the director of communications are all students.
6. "The Company" is linked to outside companies that are innovative and have shown an interest in higher education and promote intrapreneurship. They provide continuous feedback and help us to develop the curriculum design.