Students in science programmes have the best possible foundation for starting an innovative business. They have the latest methods and insights at their fingertips. What they lack is business sense. In Copenhagen Science City, the student start-up community SCIENCE Innovation Hub provides office space for entrepreneurial students and courses in business development. Some students even gather study credits while working on their own start-up.By Jes Andersen.
Skills and spin-outs equally important
SCIENCE Innovation Hub is becoming increasingly popular and successful. In 2018, 143 students worked on 69 start-up ideas. That is an increase of more than 30 percent compared to 2017. Five of the teams have gotten as far as market introduction. A further ten are currently going through prototyping or pilot testing. Dorthe Lynnerup who manages the community is proud of this, but feels that teaching business skills is at least as important as producing viable start-ups.
Our student-start-ups have the same survival rate as anywhere else in entrepreneurship. This is pretty striking, but to us it is just as important to produce graduates with an entrepreneurial mindset, as to see them registering a company while they are still students”: Dorthe Lynnerup, Special Consultant, University of Copenhagen, Faculty of SCIENCE.
Science specialists use generalist competencies in start-ups
The University of Copenhagen is home to 188 study programmes. Faculty of SCIENCE alone, offers 58, so it should come as no surprise, that the student start-ups are a mixed bunch. From novel services and sustainable solutions over health innovation and new products to food and drink in every possible flavour. Surprisingly few of the innovative food start-ups spring from SCIENCEs four study programmes within food science and nutrition.
“13 of our teams are developing food products and services, but only four of the team-members are enrolled in a food science or nutrition study programme. Instead they are using their generalist competencies and taking advantage of the network we provide”, says Dorthe Lynnerup.
Transforming entrepreneurship from hobby to study programme
Student entrepreneurship has been seen as hobbyist activities. SCIENCE aims to transform this culture with a programme named “Project In Practice”. This an innovation and entrepreneurship course with a structure mimicking all other university courses. Students can build it on top of any SCIENCE study programme, they earn study credits, 15 of the so-called ECTS , for taking the course and best of all: They work on a start-up idea of their own. The only condition is, that the idea must be based on the study programme they are taking.
Students as well as their tutors are starting to love this course. We invite the students to look at the fruits of their education as a customer would. It turns out, that this stimulates creativity within the subject and our students have gotten impressive grades at their subsequent exams”: Dorthe Lynnerup.
Project in practice taking off
The Project in Practice course kicked off in 2018, where 8 students joined it. In 2019 this number was surpassed by the end of January and Lynnerup expects to spend the year taking 30 students through concepts such as business model canvas, empathy maps, user journeys and other concepts central to commercializing an idea.
Funding and customers galore
All new businesses struggle to find funding and drum up customers. Five SCIENCE Innovation Hub teams have attracted 615,000 DKK in external funding in ’18. 45 percent over the 2017 result. 16 of the SCIENCE Innovation Hub-teams sold products in ‘18 and had a total turnover of 1.960.000 DKK (263.000 Euro), says Lynnerup.
“And that’s pretty good. Don’t forget: So far, these have been full time students, starting a business in their spare time. Once we get the Project in Practice courses up to full steam, I expect to see even better numbers”, concludes Dorthe Lynnerup.
Are you a student who wants to start a business or join a start-up?