The academic team at IICED understands that enterprise starts with creativity and innovation but relies on a very strong business sense to make it work.
The inter-disciplinary team are well-respected contributors to the enterprise education agenda and have helped to develop informed views at both policy and grass roots levels.
We believe that graduates who develop their own ideas and opportunities with also an ability to drive them forward, are vital for tomorrow’s economy.
As a bank manager, Kath supported many entrepreneurs to take their ideas forward, developing a good sense of understanding for what made them successful.
In 1997, she started to teach entrepreneurial studies to artists and designers and quickly realised that whilst business acumen is vital for entrepreneurial success, creativity is the essential ingredient for every aspect, from that initial spark of an idea, through to accessing finance and communicating ideas to diverse stakeholders’ groups.
Kath became UWTSD’s Enterprise Manager in 2005, and her work has been ranked by Times Higher as the third in the UK for the survival of graduate business.
She is a Welsh Government Enterprise Champion and helped to develop the first accredited teaching training module for entrepreneurship. She now trains teachers in countries across Europe as well as in Wales, where she is a role model for Be The Spark!
Kath’s experience extends to senior policy work, including research reviews for the United Nations on female entrepreneurship and an invited keynote at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. A regular keynote speaker, she has authored or co-authored over 60 academic papers and presentations, including practice and policy proposals published by the OECD.
With over 600 business start-ups who readily share their expertise and experiences with her, Kath says that ‘I am a champion and a vehicle for entrepreneurship – expertly driven by these alumni!
Professor Emeritus Andy Penaluna is the former Director of IICED, and continues to advise the team.
With a wealth of experience in academic publications, international keynote speaking and policy work at the highest of levels, Andy first set up the UK Higher Education Academy’s Special Interest Group in Entrepreneurial Learning in 2007, and in 2010-11 the 70+ University network Enterprise Educators UK elected him to Chair their network. He works closely with Welsh Assembly Government and has often advised the Enterprise Directorate at the UK Government. He is also an acknowledged expert at the United Nations in Geneva, where he contributed to the development of a new international policy toolkit.
In the UK at HE level, Andy chairs the Quality Assurance Agency’s Graduate Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Group, and has also helped to write the UK’s Quality Code for Learning and Teaching. He is an expert contributor to AdVanceHE where he helped develop the Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education Framework.
International work includes contributing to the European Commission Joint Research Centre’s EntreComp Framework and acting as a lead advisor on the OECD / EU HEInnovate ‘Epic’ project. At Schools level, Andy led the development of the 8 country SEECEL project in the Balkans and funded by the World Bank, led the national development of an innovation and enterprise curriculum in North Macedonia.
At home in Wales, Andy was lead advisor on the development of the new Welsh ‘Successful Futures’ curriculum’s ‘Skills Integral to the Four Purposes’, which followed on from a 2010 project - helping to lead a Welsh Consortia of Universities and colleges to develop what is believed to be the UK’s first fully University accredited M Level module in Initial Teacher Training for enterprise educators, part of which is now integral to the University’s Education Doctorate.
Current roles include Directorship of the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education (NCEE). NCEE Sponsors the Times Higher Award for the Outstanding Entrepreneurial University of the Year, and developed the Entrepreneurial Leaders Programme for senior university leader - now in its 10th year.
- AdvanceHE Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education Framework
- Education Wales Curriculum Hwb; Developing a vision for curriculum design
- NCEE Entrepreneurial Leaders
- OECD / EU HEInnovate ‘Epic’ resource for educators
- QAA Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education: Guidance for UK Higher Education Providers
Colin Jones is an internationally recognised enterprise educator, based at the Queensland University of Technology, in Australia.
Colin holds visiting appointments at Universities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and China. He is a passionate advocate for enterprise learning and currently is developing his approach around a philosophy of adventuring.
A recipient of several national and international awards for his teaching and research, Colin maintains relationships with many universities globally and is regularly invited to speak on topics related to his research areas.
On Entrepreneurial Education
What do you say to those who argue entrepreneurship can’t be taught?
I partially agree. While it can’t be taught in the traditional sense of content-led teaching, I believe it can be learned through facilitative methods that emancipate the student from pre-existing levels of ignorance. For example, lots of people say they teach ‘design thinking’ but teach it as a series of processes, essentially focusing on the content. They say you need to do this, and then ask them to follow the process; that’s not always reconcilable to ‘designerly thinking’. You need to learn how to do the ‘thinking’ before you can effectively use the increasingly popular prescriptive design thinking process. The ‘EntreComp’ framework is useful as it provides a series of foci for educators. It doesn’t’ dictate how or what you should teach, but provides the stimulus on thinking about and exploring entrepreneurial practice. I look forward to seeing how we move forward with its implementation, especially with regards to how we assess against ‘authentic’ performance situations.
Do you believe there is a priority competence for focus?
Not so much one priority, but I would highlight the increasing focusing on agency, or as I and a few other researchers describe as self-negotiated action. We see this being at the core of our work; it underpins what entrepreneurial education should be developing within all students. That is, the ability of individual students to direct their consciousness and action towards an alignment of their inner and outer worlds in order to succeed in life. I would also promote the ability to engage in a much deeper reflection than what is typically observed in everyday life. Entrepreneurship Education should help facilitate students with achieving a level of reflection that ensures a greater depth awareness of their assumptions, dispositions and surrounds.
You have argued that 21st-century universities need to do more work to create environments conducive for the development of entrepreneurial mindsets and behaviour, what are the key challenges for this?
In my view, the ‘modern’ University no longer creates the required space for ‘pure learning’; their priorities are typically focused primarily on ‘attracting’ students and ‘progressing’ students. To add to the challenge, as organizations, they are not particularly entrepreneurial, conflict with their traditional base culture. There is still too much focus on content rather than the development of the individual student. Educational leaders are often elected on the basis of research excellence and other achievements, whilst playing by known and accepted rules. True entrepreneurial leadership needs to come from a place of authenticity, not of authority. There is much work to be done to create ‘entrepreneurial universities
On Entrepreneurial Educators
What is key to an effective 21st century entrepreneurial education for educators?
Whilst entrepreneurial educators are often identified as specialists, in reality, the excellent ones are almost always generalists and/or quite multidisciplinary, with a deep appreciation of how learning can be effectively fostered. My view is that educators supporting entrepreneurial skills don’t need to have been an entrepreneur, however, they need to be able to help others learn effectively in many different contexts. I’m biased towards good educators with world life experience. I’m also a fan of differentiated learning, a practice universally used in kindergartens and primary schools, but lost by the time we school adolescents. In championing heutagogy, we restore the rights of the individual learner. So, developing excellent scholarship of teaching and Learning (SoTL) is very important in the 21st century, followed by an understanding of enterprise and entrepreneurship rather than an entrepreneur background being a prerequisite. Sadly, Universities are rushing out to find entrepreneurs in residence without always first checking if they can actually help students learn beyond the specific expertise they hold.
In terms of educational and learning theorists, who has had the most influence on your perspectives on entrepreneurial education?
Tough question, it’s an iterative process.
John Dewey provided philosophical stimulus on the role of education in general.
Alfred Whitehead influenced my scholarly thinking, re learning in the here and now.
Roy Heath heavily impacted my thinking about a ‘type’ of student (i.e. the Reasonable Adventurer) that could be developed in the context of entrepreneurship education.
Jack Mezirow’s work on transformative learning challenged me to consider whether students were engaging in the necessary steps to be transformed and this has led me to focus more on the presence of a ‘disconcerting dilemma’ through which students may entertain deeper introspection. For students to reflect effectively, they need to challenge their ontological assumptions and question their feelings, assumptions and probe, using many iterations of the questioning. Developing pedagogy around this involves ‘discomfort’ for the student, and often for the educator.
John Sweller has captured my imagination, with his cognitive load theory, and the implications of factoring in ‘memory development’ into entrepreneurship education.
Is your pedagogy rooted in a deeper underpinning philosophy?
Yes, many philosophical ideas coalesce to produce a meta-philosophy.
Whitehead’s idea ‘less is more’, Palmers’ notion that ‘we teach who we are’, Dewey’s notion that ‘the theory of effort is the substitution of one idea for another’, and Doris’s idea that while ‘self-reflection is vitally important, most human are incapable of accurate reflection’. All of these ideas come together and lead me to choices, like adopting heutagogy and seeing cognitive load theory as essential for supporting the deep learning required to fundamentally shape the students’ cognitive architecture.
Which critical skill or competence have you most relied upon in life?
Resilience, I am relatively flawed in terms of executing aspects of my life, but proficient at bouncing back.
Curiosity, I bounce back because my curiosity keeps me ‘in the game’ and gives me momentum over and over again.
Who and why has most inspired you on your ‘entrepreneurial learning’ journey?
Professor Allan Gibb, he spoke in a simple way, expressing common-sense and helping me get a focus on what I could do to make a difference in my students’ lives.
Professor Andy Penaluna, he always has a different point of view that provides welcome perspective in moving my thinking forward and/or sideways.
While competence in the EntreComp framework are given equal focus, have you personally relied upon or worked on any specific competences in an educator context?
I have resurrected an old approach the ‘Reasonable Adventurer’ for entrepreneurship education, which develops 6 specific attributes or competences. The concept was created at Princeton in the early 1960s by Roy Heath, as an outcome of his research into the common attributes of graduates of the personal attributes required to attack the problems of everyday life with zest and originality, and be capable of creating their own opportunities for satisfaction, be that in your personal, social or professional life. I have adapted and built upon this concept to develop robust 21st century graduates. I work to curate the right experiences for my students so that they can make good progress to becoming ‘reasonable adventurers’.
The 6 attributes are:
Intellectuality – To find balance between being a believer and a skeptic. To be a critical thinker, with an open perspective, that can ask good questions. To judge the circumstances or the contexts in which facts may hold or be called into question.
Close friendships – Trying to understand the world views of someone else. Not to just take them on board, but simply to understand others better. I work on getting my students to be curious about and understand each other, see the world from each other’s viewpoints.
Independence in value judgments – To have the courage to back one’s own convictions rather than relying on what family, friends, society or others think.
Tolerance for ambiguity – Life is a series of interruption and recoveries, so, the ability to make judgements even when you don’t have enough information to make confident decisions; very important in developing an authentic learning environment.
Breadth of Interest – Roy Heath called this an uncommon interest in the commonplace. Encouraging students to the opportunities present in their everyday lives, and not assuming opportunity was only possible elsewhere. Getting people to understand how you could create value in the simple world their living in. Essentially, resisting the urge to project yourself into this unbelievable world of success that you might picture. Helping them to see that they can be successful in the world they’re already in.
Humour – Increasingly, so many students have a great deal of anxiety. I encourage my students to adopt a (benign) sense of humour rather than take life too seriously. To open up to fun and joy in the learning setting. A class having fun is a relaxed one, and more open to the process of learning.
Interestingly, although I have been using this approach since 2006, pleasingly, I can map these attributes back to EntreComp competences, they’re the sort of those inputs that prepare someone for creating value in any aspects of their life.
Which of your career experiences has had the most impact of your ‘entrepreneurial education’ life journey?
Losing every dollar and possession I had during a business failure and becoming bankrupt and then, having to pick myself up through a process of reflective appreciation of myself that enabled me to gradually fall in love with myself, enable me to become accepting of my faults.
Of hopes, fears, joys or disappointments, which had the most impact on your life journey?
Sadly, fears. I experience more anxiety than I would wish for, but I am highly motivated to champion the rights of students to learn in different ways. I tend to discuss ‘my’ failures with my students, rarely my successes. I do this across all aspects of my life. Not so much to normalize failure, but rather to illustrate how good things tend to follow from the advent of significant failure. Life doesn’t end, it just gets an unexpected impetus.
What do you perceive to be the biggest challenges for the youth of the present day?
Good question. I would say understanding the importance of slowing down. Everything is at their fingertips, they are impatient, and yet deep learning requires slowing down one’s cognitive processing, developing metacognition, something almost impossible in today’s fast paced, shallow learning world.
Which country do you consider to be leading the way for the future of Entrepreneurship Education?
In my opinion, the UK (especially Wales) authentically embraces enterprise and entrepreneurship education as distinct, yet interrelated forms of education. The 2018 QAA Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education guidance (Penaluna, 2018) stands head and shoulders above anything I have seen elsewhere.
So finally, Dr Jones, what would be the top piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Be braver than you were. Never attribute to malice what you can attribute to stupidity and ignorance. A quote I heard when I was 35, and wish I knew when I was 15!
Dr Kelly Smith, Visiting Professor of Enterprise & Entrepreneurship at University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) International Institute for Creative Entrepreneurial Development (IICED), is currently based at the Birmingham Business School and is an influential enterprise and entrepreneurship educator with a strong portfolio of graduate venture creation.
Here, UWTSD's Felicity Healey-Benson spends time with one of the key architects of Enterprise and Entrepreneurial Educator networks in the UK. Contributing to education research and national policy development, Dr Smith works to improve engagement and impact of entrepreneurship education programmes for all disciplines.
You have a varied academic background Dr Smith which includes cognitive science, have certain subjects influenced your design for an entrepreneurial education?
Beyond the subject matter, I have most been influenced by technology. I was fortunate to start out in education in the late 1990s, an exciting time for learning technology development, which steered my career towards technology-supported or hi-tech entrepreneurship. This, in turn, seeded interest in the key underpinning skills for entrepreneurship in a VUCA, volatile, uncertain, complex and uncertain world. I support my students and graduates to be open-minded critical thinkers who challenge the status quo, iterating fast. Continuously horizon scanning with strong curiosity, I’m keen to be a first adopter. I embrace project roles to influence fellow educators to make more use of the opportunities that learning technologies can afford, and to maximize the potential of social media.
Dr Smith, what would you say to those who worry about an over-reliance on technology, or that technology can distract from or dilute skill development?
Technology has made access to data easier in many instances, but data itself is meaningless without critical analysis. The need to use the information wisely, to make reasoned decisions, remains. I think of technology as providing us with the tools that are better matched to our rapidly changing needs. In recent months alone, we have witnessed acute changes to the norms of how we all interact and how business can be conducted. Technology is key to helping us capture what is happening around us, to understand or predict activity, and facilitate adaption at speed. It is hard to imagine how we could do all this without technology. In my own domain, as an enterprise educator, there is a growing online component to learning, more so, since the COVID-19 crisis. The management of learning through a virtual learning environment, the need to be familiar with the subject and industry-specific software, finding and using credible online resources to supplement and enhance learning, creating electronic assets for learning and assessment, are all key. Yet I do caution that not everyone has adequate access to up-to-date computers, smartphones, specialist software, even a reliable internet connection. So, this has to be factored in when designing engagement with all learners or planning a new venture.
Dr Smith, I understand you have a keen interest in the arts, has this influenced your design of an entrepreneurial curriculum?
There are two aspects to this. I believe a life-long learning interest in the arts and humanities should be actively encouraged in all education programmes. Understanding history and culture can help inform better decision-making, shaping society for the better. The arts are intertwined with creativity, combining existing knowledge into new forms of expression, helping push the boundaries of knowledge, and support new applications.
My husband Richard, and I are art collectors, and regularly visit degree shows. We often collect student and graduate work. I also work with many students on arts-related enterprises, and enjoy access to their work.
The embedding of enterprise and entrepreneurship education experience is essential for art students, to be able to value and sell their work. However, entrepreneurial skills apply to all students, from geographers to medical students, whether that be identifying and researching opportunities, persuading and communicating, or bidding for resources.
Which theorists have influenced your perspectives on entrepreneurial education?
I’m attracted to John Dewey’s application of pragmatism, the focus on the learner experience, and the extension of this by David Kolb into experiential learning. I also love Sartre’s suggestion that the purpose of education is to help learners come to terms with their individuality, to emerge as unique people, and I’m drawn to his emphasis on the acquisition of knowledge through experience and reflection.
Picking up on reflection, how important is this to the modern entrepreneur or entrepreneurial thinker?
I strongly believe in the power of reflection. My students know how strongly I feel about this! I regularly share research on how reflection aids entrepreneurial success. I set tasks that require students to actively reflect on what they have learnt within and outside their study programme every week, and I include a reflective element in formal assessment wherever it is appropriate to do so. I can get quite a bit of push back at first, but we talk about how reflection is a skill that needs practice. I’ve had some fantastic feedback from final year students and graduates who have reported how important reflection is to them now, and how it has made a difference.
What is priority for developing educators to be able to facilitate entrepreneurial education today?
I would stress the importance of keeping up to date with trends and changes in educational practice, business models, or technology for learning or business application. It is important to role-model to students how to assess for, make use of, and address, the opportunities and challenges that arise for employment in the real world. I would also have to return to curiosity. I have learnt so much from asking questions and welcoming questions in return. Questioning in either direction allows me to understand the context more fully, to explore similarities and differences in experiences, and to set up scenarios to test.
I enjoy fostering curiosity in my students, so that they think more deeply, observe their world more intently, and think about how things do and do not work. A simple exercise can be to ask students to list the businesses that have contributed to the room they are sitting in. They typically start off with the obvious, like computer suppliers and furniture designers, but quickly get to the more covert and obscure contributions such as copper smelting and sheep farmers. We then explore ideas for the improved use of the room. Students are encouraged to experiment with this type of thinking as they move about in their own contexts, sharing their ideas on what they could improve or repurpose.
I also encourage students to challenge everything they read or watch as part of their studies, to call me out on anything I say that they think is wrong or out of date, to form their own opinions that can be underpinned by credible evidence. The ability to design tasks and activities that allow students to critically explore concepts and develop deeper thinking is essential.
Do you have any key advice for the emerging entrepreneurial education agenda in universities?
Entrepreneurial education is not new, but momentum is building for the embedding of enterprise as an important transferable skill into the curriculum at all levels. Experiential learning is highly valuable, in my opinion, but this can be difficult to manage practically with large groups of students.
It can also be challenging for the educator to design and deliver experiential learning opportunities, particularly if heutagogy principles are used, that is, where students drive their own learning experiences. It can be difficult to sit back and be available as a resource instead of being in control. I’ve used this approach over several years and I am so amazed by what students come up with, from producing music videos and disseminating them through social media, to the recording of ‘vox pop’ interviews with people they haven’t met before, on their entrepreneurial ambitions.
Even where their ‘something’ failed, I’m impressed at how well students identified what went wrong and how they would mitigate against the same thing happening in the future. I also believe that entrepreneurship support must be made available to all university and college students as part of an institution’s core offer. There are excellent examples of learning institution-provided business start-up support, but provision can be patchy and funding unreliable.
Do you have a view on how entrepreneurial educators should be recruited or developed?
This may be controversial. I’ve often heard it said that entrepreneurial educators must have an entrepreneurial background and have had direct business experience. My personal experience as an ‘entrepreneur’ is limited to a small amount of statistics consultancy years ago, yet I describe myself as an enterprise and entrepreneurship educator and the feedback I’ve received from students and graduate entrepreneurs is that I’m good at what I do.
I find it interesting when I meet educators from other disciplines, from history for example, whom I would consider excellent entrepreneurial educators, but are often overlooked for this type of workload. One widely used test of entrepreneurial tendency is the ‘GET2 Test’ which compares the entrepreneurial tendencies of entrepreneurs with other occupations. This test finds that although entrepreneurs tend to have the highest scores overall, lecturers and teachers are close behind.
For me, being an enterprising individual is more important than actually having run a business, although the latter may help. Like any occupation, training and development are vital along with networking and learning from peers.
Who and why has most inspired you on your ‘entrepreneurial learning’ journey?
I’m in awe of and have learned so much from the International Institute for Creative Entrepreneurial Development team at the UWTSD, and feel privileged to be included in their flock. I’ve had so many other influencers too: Alison Price, Lynn Martin, Matt Draycott, Harry Matley, Paul Jones, Peter Harrington, Phil Clegg… too many to list. I hope they all know how much I respect and appreciate them.
I also have to mention all those I have met in workshops or at entrepreneurial education conferences and events organised by Enterprise Educators UK (EEUK), the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE), and the European Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ECSB).
EEUK and ISBE have been particularly influential in my journey. I consider myself hugely privileged to have been involved with both organisations at Executive level, and to have been given the opportunity through them to contribute to national policy such as the development of the QAA guidelines for enterprise and entrepreneurship education in higher education. I’d strongly recommend getting involved with these organisations.
What would be the top piece(s) of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Just what I tell myself now and knew when I was younger as it was something my Mum said often, ‘every problem is the start of an exciting journey’. She also said ‘if you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours’ which I always hold close to my heart.
Dr Simon Brown, Head of Enterprise Development at the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education
Dr. Simon Brown’s background is as researcher / innovator in science and he is probably best known for his developmental work in holograms for security systems such as credit cards.
Despite doing a theoretical PhD (Wave Aberration Theory Analysis of Gradient Index Optics), he came to understand how research combined with an enterprising mind-set could lead to success in the market place.
Simon you have a multi-sector background, which includes the study of physics and a career in holographic technology, how has this influenced your design of leading practice entrepreneurial education?
A science background and a love of practical investigation influenced the pedagogical design of my first physics courses at Sheffield Hallam University in the early 90s.
By 1995, I had shifted focus to the design of a BSc (Hons) business and technology (B&T) degree, to support technically literate graduates fit for business and commerce contexts. In 2005, the Higher Education Funding Council for England recognised us as a national Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) in Embedding, Enhancing and Integrating Employability (e3i). This was pivotal in shaping my entrepreneurial career.
The simple, clear vision and design of the B&T continues to influence course design, including the Accelerating Enterprise Programmes at Southampton Solent University. It underpins the more recent physics degree I worked on with Dr Simon Clark at Hallam. It has informed my founding of the ‘Venture Matrix’, a unique work-related learning scheme, my consultancy work. Its reach goes as far as China.
I did not plan to develop ‘enterprise education’, it wasn’t a thing back then, but I had honed in on a specific set of skills which are now recognised as entrepreneurial. I simply wanted highly employable graduates of any discipline, who could take control of their careers whatever the factors or contexts faced.
Which theorists or practitioners have influenced your perspectives on entrepreneurial education?
Looking back, as a novice educator, I followed my instincts. I didn’t apply any specific theory or align to one particular guru. It wasn’t until the mid-noughties, after joining an independent membership network for enterprise educators, then UKSEC now Enterprise Educators UK (EEUK), that I met with others experimenting with similar approaches. Over time I was exposed to the ideas of Professor Allan Gibb, Professor Andy Penaluna, Dr Colin Jones and Dr Anne Kirketerp Linstad. Putting together the bid for CETL status for Sheffield Hallam University triggered my first deep immersion into enterprise and entrepreneurial research. I’ve since become a magpie. I’ve borrowed bits from Bandura, Sarasvathy, Powell, Blank, and Osterwalder. The list is long.
A key advantage of having a varied career is access to a rich network of people, and the opportunity to receive and offer support. I was so honoured to be invited to join the Visiting Professor team at the International Institute of Entrepreneurial Development in Swansea (UWTSD). Here, Andy and Kath Penaluna have created one of the strongest networks of enterprising and entrepreneurial academics in the world. I look forward to working with this team to respond to the post-Covid world.
Time spent with YouWin Nigeria, a youth development scheme, also taught me that learning and personal development is best achieved through experiential learning delivered by passionate educators. It doesn’t seem to be culturally moderated. British Council work in Sri Lanka opened my eyes to Dr Chandra Embuldeniya, and his work setting up the first entrepreneurial university there. I also adore live experimentation. I love supporting groups like Peter Harrington’s SimVenture. We learnt so much from watching my students just fly with the software.
A trip with the British Council to Boston convinced me that while the US academics talk a good story, UK practice and expertise were years ahead. We just don’t shout as loudly.
Your pragmatic approach to entrepreneurial skills development was seeded early on your career, Simon, but what were the main challenges faced?
Simply, gaining validation! It took my role with the EEUK, the passion and experience of Professor Andy Penaluna, and the commitment of Professor Allan Gibb to get the necessary recognition and validation by The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). This was later formalised in the QAA 2012 Enterprise and Entrepreneurship guidance.
What are your aspirations for entrepreneurial education in the UK?
I hope we don’t push it too hard. Being an entrepreneur is not for everybody. It takes a particular set of skills and competencies, and personality or mindset to live the entrepreneur life. The work on the EntreComp framework is great as it focuses not just on entrepreneurs, but entrepreneurial behaviours, attributes and competencies to create cultural and social, not just economic value, within or independent of organisations.
How can 21st-century universities shape environments conducive for the development of entrepreneurial mindsets and behaviours?
This is VERY topical, as Covid-19 ravages our planet. It will be interesting to see what will emerge after the dust settles. I’ve often said entrepreneurs work best when systems are disrupted. The work of Schumpeter and others helps us understand the role entrepreneurs play in creating new solutions when the old ones fail. We now need entrepreneurial thinkers more than ever! Universities need to respond quickly and effectively. And not just migrate lecture notes to a VLE. Pedagogies and assessment need to be adapted or replaced. We can not be allowed to prepare students for a world of work that no longer exists. It is capability and flexibility, not theories and models, that will build the resilient entrepreneurial minds of the future.
Educators and their leadership need humility and a willingness to take risks. Throw the rule book away and ask, ‘what is best for students in the current context?’ Just do it, don’t just play safe!
What role or responsibility does business or industry have in supporting this entrepreneurial environment?
Generating the context for students to develop. My time at AH PLC taught me you don’t have a solution unless you have a killer problem. The best assessment tools are real-world problems. They also sort the doers from the lazy loafers. Plagiarism and cheating cease to be an issue when a student has to explain to an employer what they’ve been doing for the last 12 weeks. Employers don’t have to be as polite and sensitive as us academics. They can, and do, tell the students exactly what they think. A life lesson, while still in a safe space, where changes can be made before the face the reality of work. I’ve found commercially relevant experiences are pure gold for the development of graduate entrepreneurial skills.
Simon, I understand you also are involved in a number of projects with post-graduate researchers, tell me about them?
I spent over 20 years trying to help undergrads, so I am now supporting educators, early career researchers, and doctoral & post-doctoral students take control of their careers. Projects include:
ICURe, Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research, is a programme funded by BEIS via Innovate UK, that helps academic teams identify opportunities for their academic research. I developed this programme with colleagues from Southampton. Now delivered by three partners, it has helped over 350 teams, raising millions of pounds of new investment for businesses and universities.
Like ICURe, SUCCESS is a programme funded by Research England aimed at Social Scientists.
University of Manchester’s Researcher to Innovator (R2I) helps researchers move forward with their discoveries and explore opportunities in commercialisation. We are on the fourth cohort and going strong.
AdvanceHE’s Entrepreneurial Thinking is a very new programme that aims to help an institution’s academics identify the next steps to take their research and passion forward.
Action for Impact helps academics from four north-east universities, Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria and Sunderland, not only identify research impact, but plan a pathway to deliver that impact via further research or commercialisation.
I am also engaged with programmes for colleagues in Sheffield, Exeter, Bristol, Cambridge and other universities.
In what country or context have you witnessed the most innovative entrepreneurial practices?
Hum…. hard. I have worked in Nigeria, East Africa, China, Malaysia, and a little in Europe. I am NOT impressed with the US. Despite their resources and brilliant marketing, they are constrained by their assessment models, and continue with very traditional pedagogy. Even the likes of Steve Blank follow a very safe format! There are pockets of excellent around the globe, but the UK is definitely a leading player.
Simon, which critical skill or competence have you most relied upon in life?
I have a fairly relaxed approach to life. I try to enjoy everything I do. I work hard when I am interested. Bureaucracy bores me. An enquiring mind is vital, but I have had the benefit of great minds to share ideas with, to refine and polish them. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Kath and Andy Penaluna, and my mates. Alan Scrase, Lisa McMullan, Alison Price, Bob Newbery, Jenny Brady, Kevin Marks, Tony Walker, Kelly Smith, Chris Hall, Kate Beresford, Laura Loveday, Shima Barakat, Marten Van Der Kamp, Anne Kirketerp and many many more. My wife’s support has also been invaluable, especially when times were tough.
I learnt early on I would not be an entrepreneur! Yet I am entrepreneurial in what I do, and in what I have achieved. I have grown from many rich experiences and support. My PhD taught me resilience and determination to overcome obstacles alone. I’m proud of my tenacity to have fought long and hard for my ‘Venture Matrix’. It lives on still in Hallam, it’s the basis of their employability offer. Fifteen years on, it’s still thriving. How many other mad schemes have lasted this long?
If you were to select your top 3 three contributions to the entrepreneurial education landscape to date, what would they be and why?
One, the BSc (Hons) B&T, it was my canvas on which to experiment.
Two, the Venture Matrix, my mad world that made everything possible.
Three, ICURe, even research profs like playing games!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t try to use the biggest tennis racquet you can buy, find one that fits your body. I wrecked my arm by using too big a racquet. Listen to your body, not others!
Keep taking things apart. See how they work. If you can put them back together, even better!
Be scientific in everything you do!
Professor David A. Kirby, Holder of The Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion, is one of the UK’s founding fathers of Entrepreneurship Education (EE).
His interest in EE started in the early 1980s at the University of Wales. He was appointed to the UK’s first Chair in Entrepreneurship at the University of Durham in 1989. Before moving to Egypt in 2007, to help launch The British University in Egypt, he was Pro-Vice Chancellor at Middlesex University, and Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Surrey.
Here, I take the opportunity to engage with Professor Kirby on his multi-decade EE research and practice.
Nearly two decades ago you famously posed the question “Entrepreneurship Education, can Business Schools meet the challenge?” (Kirby, 2003), what is your synopsis of this situation today?
When I started out, Entrepreneurship Education was confined to business schools and to teaching students to launch a new venture. I was frustrated by an education system that stultified rather than developed the requisite attributes and skills to think and behave entrepreneurially.
A considerable change in both the content and process of learning was needed. I attempted to present the key arguments and recommendations in my book ‘Entrepreneurship’ (Kirby, 2003). However, I didn’t just want to target business schools, but also attract the attention of policy-makers, nascent entrepreneurs and organisational leaders across all sectors to the requisite development of entrepreneurial culture.
In 2005, I hosted the three-day annual conference ‘Internationalising Entrepreneurship Education and Training’ (IntEnt05). This drew delegates from 23 nations, and not just the usual business school network. There was a growing appetite for change in the way entrepreneurial mindsets and behaviours were being shaped, and new demand being placed on universities to contribute to the creation of entrepreneurial cultures.
From today’s vantage point, we’ve come a long way. Many key frustrations held back then are now being worked through. My early research had highlighted that many successful entrepreneurs had not only failed academically but were dyslexic or had ADHD, and indicated a right brain learning preference. Consequently, I wanted to move the emphasis in education away from note-taking and passive learning to questioning and action or experiential learning, developing right as well as left-brain thinking.
Today, I am happy that more educational institutions are embracing more creative learning pedagogy and creating environments that help students develop innovative solutions to the problems facing contemporary society. In fact, since returning to the UK, from a decade working in Egypt, I am delighted to see the gains made in Entrepreneurship Education, and not just in Wales or solely in business schools.
So, reflecting on your career to date, is there an experience or critical incident which shaped your ‘entrepreneurial education’ life journey?
The early 1980s at the University of Wales set the foundation. At the time, university teaching was very traditional. There was a backdrop of high graduate unemployment and an economic policy focused on foreign direct investment rather than indigenous small business development.
I met with considerable opposition when I offered extra-curricular enterprise programmes to women, graduates and small businesses. I recall at that time, during a TV programme I participated in, the presenter, a leading management academic, made the point that there was no word in Welsh for an entrepreneur. Sadly, many colleagues and peers were critical of my work, also. One told me it was trivial, peripheral and gimmicky. That just made me more determined to succeed.
I was further inspired to continue by Professor Charles Handy, CBE, formerly Professor of Management at London Business School. Professor Handy was, and remains, a highly original, stimulating thinker, and was responsible, as President, for the “Education for Capability” Programme of the Royal Society of Arts. My “Graduate Enterprise in Wales” programme was recognised here for its success in developing the personal competence and confidence of its participants, and turning their academic knowledge into new products and businesses.
Possibly the critical incident that exploded my entrepreneurial career came when I was working at the University of Durham. Prime Minister Thatcher’s new university policy had slashed budgets and introduced a national programme entitled “Enterprise in Higher Education”. The plan was to encourage universities to develop the enterprise skills and competences of their students irrespective of discipline. Universities had to bid for funding. I had responsibility for this programme at Durham, and also helped promote the initiative to other UK universities.
Professor Kirby, can you tell me more about your entrepreneurial activities in Egypt?
In 2007 I left for Egypt for three years to help set up The British University, essentially a new social enterprise. I would stay for over ten years. We introduced a degree specialism in Entrepreneurship, the first in the country, and embarked on a programme of research that included introducing Egypt to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor project.
Entrepreneurship is now a high priority for Egypt and some of our early students are leading the field there. At least two are university lecturers in entrepreneurship, one in the UK, several are engaged in Entrepreneurship PhDs, and one has even opened a business in the UK.
Professor Kirby was a keynote speaker at an Entrepreneurship Conference hosted by the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport, Alexandria, Egypt (2015). Did time spent in Egypt change your thinking in any way?
Yes, I was very much inspired by the late Professor Ibrahim Abouleish, a very humble Egyptian Social Entrepreneur. The founder of SEKEM, a social enterprise that introduced organic foods and biodynamic agriculture to Egypt, he turned 70 acres of desert into a thriving agricultural community, complete with schools, a college and a university.
As a result of his vision and entrepreneurial determination to succeed, some 2000 people are in employment; 684 acres of the desert now has agricultural use; there is a 90% reduction in artificial fertilisers and pesticides; and a 30% increase in the production of Egyptian cotton.
In 2003 he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, the Alternative Nobel Prize, and in 2004, the Schwab Foundation’s Outstanding Social Entrepreneur Award. Professor Abouleish introduced me to a new, more holistic way of doing business. I have recently written an article entitled “Harmonious Entrepreneurship”. It has yet to be published.
It is in line with the thinking of HRH The Prince of Wales in his 2010 book “Harmony: A New Way of Looking at our World”.
Are you aware that there is a Harmony Institute and Project at the University of Wales Trinity St David’s (UWTSD), and the Prince of Wales is its Patron?
Yes, and coincidentally I developed my ideas on Entrepreneurship Education in Wales, the home of UWTSD. Some forty or more years later, my ideas and thinking are very much in line with the University’s present-day sustainability research and teaching.
What entrepreneurship education issues do you perceive to require urgent address today?
Creating entrepreneurial mindsets and culture within institutions. My initial research had investigated the characteristics of the entrepreneur and whether these can be developed. I concluded that we are all enterprising at birth, but our families, the education system, the employment system and society encourage the majority of us to conform.
Many successful entrepreneurs, in my opinion, have been failed by the education system, as they are “square pegs in round holes”. I believe the role of EE is to reactivate the innate enterprise in us all.
I would like every undergraduate studying in a UK university, irrespective of discipline, to have the opportunity to develop his or her enterprise skills and competences.
Subsequently, my more recent research focuses on the Entrepreneurial University and University Knowledge/Technology Transfer. I believe that you cannot expect students to be entrepreneurial if the institutions in which they are being educated are not.
Universities need entrepreneurial leadership that recognises the importance of developing entrepreneurial mindsets and behaviour and incorporates them into the institution’s mission and strategic objectives.
There is also a challenge in changing the mindset of the staff, many of whom remain opposed to the concept, and do not see the need for a “Third Mission” to complement the two traditional missions of Teaching and Research.
My most recent research has focused on the challenges faced by universities on an entrepreneurial journey and how these challenges may be overcome. I also believe academics need to be more innovative with their pedagogy, creating environments where students are not afraid to question, challenge, experiment and make mistakes. They, the academics, need to be part of the learning community and to act as facilitators of learning, helping break the dependency culture.
What, if anything, has the COVID-19 context illuminated about the importance or utility of EE?
COVID-19 has demonstrated the leading role that universities can play and illuminated the need for educated young people who can cope with uncertainty and find innovative solutions to contemporary problems.
I would like every university in the country to be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Entrepreneurial and Engaged Universities. This is not because I am a member of the Council, but because I believe that in the modern knowledge economy universities are the catalyst for economic and social development.
If EE is to be successful, our universities themselves need to be entrepreneurial. In fact, I have just written a blog that suggests that the role that universities have played during the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates the sort of entrepreneurial contribution they can make. Hopefully, this will help overcome some of the resistance to the concept and the changes that are needed.
If you were to select your top three written contributions to EE research, what would they be, and why?
I would cite my Entrepreneurship book back in 2003, which shifted the emphasis in Entrepreneurship Education away from simply new venture creation and functional business competences.
My book chapter “Changing the Entrepreneurship Education Paradigm” in Fayolle’s 2007 “Handbook of Research in Entrepreneurship Education” introduced the need to develop right as well as left-brain thinking skills to create entrepreneurs and proposed changing the place of learning from the classroom to the incubator.
My 2006 article on “Creating Entrepreneurial Universities in the UK: Applying entrepreneurial theory to practice” explored the concept of the Entrepreneurial University, using the University of Surrey as a case example. It applied entrepreneurship theory to determine how universities need to change to become more entrepreneurial.
You once made a comment about not being conditioned by what has gone before, or being concerned about top ranked journal publication. What’s your thinking behind this statement?
I want my research to be innovative and to bring about change and improvement. I want it to be read and understood by scholars and practitioners, not just academics.
When I was a doctoral student I came across a quotation that said “The answer may be yes or no, but it sounds much better if spoken with a slight but perceptible Oxbridge accent and couched in mathematical terms”. I do not know the source, but I have tried, steadfastly, to avoid doing this throughout my career.
Which would you identify as your most pivotal projects, why are they significant?
I’m proud of my innovative teaching programmes, but I shortlist three projects:
One, collaborating in the 1990s with the late Professor Jose Veciana of The Autonomous University of Barcelona, and Professor Bengt Johannisson then of Vaxjo University in Sweden to establish a European Doctoral Programme in Entrepreneurship. This programme intended to encourage and train young academics in the methods of both research and teaching in Entrepreneurship. Many of the participants are now well established entrepreneurship educators and researchers.
Two, setting up the first SETsquared Incubation Centre on the Research Park at the University of Surrey in 2002. For the past three years SETsquared, based at the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, has been the world’s number one university incubator.
Three, helping launch The British University in Egypt and introducing the country’s first Entrepreneurship degree specialism.
You have certainly contributed magnificently to the EE landscape, which is vibrant today! Professor Kirby, looking back, what would be the top piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?
I had always believed that “actions speak louder than words” and grew up in an era when the professions, including universities, did not advertise. That has changed.
The top piece of advice I would give a younger me is ‘if you believe you have something worth doing then say it, don’t just do it’.
Given the power of your questioning, what question would you like to go viral in 2020?
‘How can entrepreneurship save the planet?’
Thank you! Yes, a powerful way to end our conversation today, Professor Kirby. It’s been a privilege to share your reflections, experiences and practices. I am very much looking forward to your new contribution, ‘Harmonious Entrepreneurship’.
On a final note, I do believe we can no longer rely upon ‘they’. Whether ‘they’ are the wealthy nations of the world, the State, multi-national firms, our communities, or even our own families.
We have to take ownership and responsibility for our own destinies, for making the world a better place for both ourselves and society. I believe this is why an entrepreneurial mindset is so important.
Originally a youth worker and VET teacher, Elin has specialised in entrepreneurial education for the past 16 years.
After 12 years in education and economic development policy roles with European Commission and Welsh Government, in 2016 she co-founded Bantani Education as a non-profit to drive this work forward. Bantani is now working globally to build new collaborations, develop stronger networks, and create new ways to innovate and experiment in the area of entrepreneurial education and learning for life-skills.
Bantani are the innovation lead for a number of EU initiatives, developing a global community of practice through entrecomp360.eu, designing a teacher competence framework and supporting training through entrecompedu.eu and working with national and regional governments/stakeholder communities in entrecompeurope.eu.
She has contributed to European Commission Eurydice studies on entrepreneurship and citizenship education, as well as EntreComp-related publications including ‘EntreComp into Action’ and 'EntreComp at Work' published by the European Commission.