Students boost entrepreneurship within existing organisations

Entrepreneurial Education showcased

Entrepreneurial education is available at every faculty at Utrecht University. These are courses, minors or complete programmes in which a entrepreneurial mindset is stimulated and entrepreneurial skills are taught. This does not necessarily mean that students have to create a venture - employers also demand these skills. The Centre for Entrepreneurship went 'back to school' and attended a lecture on Intrapreneurship. 

Monday morning, a few minutes past ten. It is noisy in Spinoza 1.06, where the final lecture of the Intrapreneurship course takes place. The course is part of the master's programme Business Development & Entrepreneurship at the Utrecht University School of Economics (U.S.E.). Students talk about their weekend in several different languages and wish each other good luck on their presentation. Today, they present what they have been working on for companies in the past few weeks.

Close to the deadline

“Alright, good morning! I’m so happy to see you all!” Lecturer Coen Rigtering sounds sincerely happy that almost all students are present. The lecture is not compulsory and is scheduled during the exam period. Students still have a few days before they have to submit their final report and the presentations and discussions make it clear that much remains to be done.

Studentondernemers Lars Molenaar en Cornelis den Hartog
Student entrepreneurs Cornelis and Lars of myHospi

It might be typical for the hardworking BD&E students*, or it's due to their teacher that almost everyone showed up. As coordinator of the master's programme, Rigtering clearly has established a warm connection with his students and rewards good behaviour: before the presentations start, a large bag of sweets goes around. Syrup waffles, bars of Tony’s Chocolonely, even gluten-free options are available.

*Earlier we spoke to BD&E students Lars Molenaar and Cornelis den Hartog about their venture myHospi.

Intrapreneurship: entrepreneurship within organisations

Although entrepreneurship is usually associated with start-up activities, new businesses and independent entrepreneurs, it can also take place within existing organisations: intrapreneurship. Entrepreneurial employees take the initiative for innovation and change within their own organisation. In recent years, both the scientific and the business community have realised that this entrepreneurial attitude among employees is essential for a healthy company.

An entrepreneurial attitude among employees is essential for a healthy company.

Students themselves were responsible for finding a company with on a current intrapreneurship issue they could work on in small groups. The companies they found are quite diverse: startups, scale-ups, corporates; local, social or international. From well-known brands such as Flixbus, Talpa Network and ABInBev (the largest brewery in the world), to a West-Frisian construction company, a home interior store, a seaweed farm and a privatised pharmaceutical company. Students have examined the state of the company's employees' entrepreneurial spirit and formulate advice on how management can stimulate entrepreneurship among their own employees. Some groups have contributed to a specific innovation or project, in the capacity of external advisors.

How can employers stimulate innovation among employees, if they also 'just have to do their job'?

The students visibly enjoy tackling 'real' issues. "Who listens to the radio more often than to a streaming service like Spotify?" asks a presenting student to the class. Two hands go up, including that of the teacher. "Well, they are aware about that at Talpa - owner of Radio 538, Sky Radio and Radio Veronica. They will have to help their staff with the transition from producing old-fashioned radio to the production of audio content. How do you do that? That's what we've been working on."

It is difficult to innovate within fixed structures.

Another organisation has sent all its employees on a Lean course, but concludes no increase of innovative behaviour. How can they change that? All student groups have one thing in common: they have experienced how difficult it is to innovate within fixed structures. As an employee interviewed by the students put it aptly: "If it's of any use to me, I'm willing to make an effort to innovate. If only the company benefits, I'd rather just do what I'm paid to do."

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