Scott Stern visited Utrecht University in honour of the 15 year lustrum of Utrecht University School of Economics. The Centre for Entrepreneurship asked him what his view is on the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Utrecht.
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Universities play a key role as one of the main actors in entrepreneurial ecosystems
Scott Stern is a professor of Management of Technology at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He explores how innovation—the production and distribution of “ideas”—differs from more traditional economic goods, and the implications of these differences for entrepreneurship, business strategy, and public policy. His research in the economics of innovation and entrepreneurship focuses on the drivers of commercialisation strategy for technology entrepreneurs and the role of incentives and organisational design on the process of innovation.
What is the role of universities in local entrepreneurial ecosystems?
Entrepreneurial ecosystems are ever more important as drivers of economic performance and social progress. Universities play a key role as one of the main actors in this system. A university is an institution that has its roots in the local environment. It is a premier source of innovation, a place that connects many stakeholders and where students are encouraged to develop new skills. Ideally there is an open interaction between the university campus and the city where this ecosystem benefits from. A proactive approach by the university is required to facilitate this open environment for startups and for industry to find unique ways of collaboration that is tailored to the local environment.
What role does MIT play in the Boston ecosystem and what can Utrecht University learn from this?
I serve as co-founder of THE MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP), which provides opportunities for communities around the world to engage with MIT in an evidence-based, practical approach to strengthening innovation-driven entrepreneurial (IDE) ecosystems. In the programme we work with regions from around the world on how they can accelerate their own entrepreneurial ecosystem, through a specific stakeholder approach and targeted strategic interventions. The main lesson from over 40 regions we have researched: places like MIT are able to leverage what makes them special. We know what makes the region special and use this to our maximum advantage. Another insight we have learned is that some places can accelerate and scale entrepreneurship by understanding the strengths that they bring as an entrepreneurial ecosystem for all stakeholders. Utrecht is a great example for this. By working closely with the different stakeholders like local government, startups and capital funds, you can find the right solutions and scale over time.
How does MIT collaborate with UU?
We would very much like Utrecht to join the MIT REAP programme and work with us in understanding and learning more from each other. The programme has changed the view on ecosystems. Because we look at the process and give direct feedback. Traditionally there is much talk and thinking about what makes an ecosystem better, but very little coherent action is done. Utrecht can learn from what we have studied in Boston and other regions in REAP and vice versa. By learning from each other we can all continue to build our own unique ecosystem.