At VentureWell, we firmly believe the best is yet to come in entrepreneurship education, both as a field of study in higher ed and the impact future innovators will have in creating a more prosperous world. But what are the next steps in innovation & entrepreneurship (I&E) education? What are the areas of focus that will get us from where we are now to where we want to go? Here’s what we see as four key themes.
As I&E education goes mainstream, the field is navigating a new normal. One of the biggest trends—and biggest challenges—is integrating I&E throughout the curriculum and campus at large, weaving it into the fabric of higher education. While there are more courses and programs and more ways to teach I&E than ever before, the goal now is to find the best approaches–the experiential exercises that really work, the truly effective program models, the most valuable extracurricular programs–and implement them widely. And there are much broader conversations to be had about values as the field engages a larger population: figuring out how to make I&E education accessible to both women and underrepresented minorities.
Assessment is essential in every field, but especially so for a young discipline trying to prove itself. Finding the most effective, research-based means of assessing entrepreneurial learning outcomes is key. What assessment tools and evaluation mechanisms are out there? How do we best measure learning outcomes?
Focusing on early-stage innovators
Solutions can come from anywhere, because they spring from new experiences and fresh perspectives on a problem. Defining “early stage innovator” (ESI) broadly, we believe in fostering solutions from a range of people new to entrepreneurship: undergraduate and grad students, researchers, global entrepreneurs. But there is a glaring opportunity gap for many of these potential entrepreneurs. We need to bring ESIs into the discussion and listen to their perspectives in order to understand how to best serve them. This can include mitigating failure for ESI innovators, building and deploying investment and capital for ESIs, and best practices for ESI training.
Using invention and entrepreneurship as a means to improving lives around the world, especially the poor, continues to resonate in I&E education (as well it should). But across the world, unique barriers and challenges remain. Implementation is contextual to each geography; nuanced cultural, political, and economic dynamics are in play for entrepreneurs in each region. For the field to move forward, more conversations need to be had around supporting STEM entrepreneurship in emerging markets, then taking concrete steps to build thriving I&E ecosystems in those areas. Models for transforming I&E in institutions of higher education worldwide need to generated. Capacity for I&E at national levels needs to be increased. Pipelines need to be built. Governments, universities and industry need to support development of these innovation ecosystems every step of the way.