Entrepreneurship to meet the challenges of the future

In future, an entrepreneurial mindset and creative problem-solving will be important traits needed to solve new and more complex challenges. This is what Engage – Centre for Engaged Education through Entrepreneurship will be focusing on in the years ahead.

There was great celebration at Gløshaugen campus in Trondheim on 1 February, when no less than two centres were opened at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). One of these centres was Engage – Centre for Engaged Education through Entrepreneurship. The centre is a consortium comprising the NTNU School of Entrepreneurship, Nord University Business School, Spark NTNU,TrollLABS and Experts in Teamwork (EiT) at NTNU, in addition to other partners from Norway and abroad.At Nord University, Engage will involve different academic environments to stimulate more engaged learning and research activities. Therefore, a separate celebration of the centre’s opening was held at Nord University on 23 March. The event included a presentation of the centre as well as talks and video greetings from key players both at the regional and the national level.

‘Work on the opening has already proved important in terms of making contacts and spreading information about the centre in the region’, says project manager Bjørg Riibe Ramskjell from Engage.

Entrepreneurship – horizontal and vertical cooperation

The centre’s objective is to educate students who are willing and able to take on the role of change agents in society. This will be done by developing entrepreneurial skills and attitudes in students. The background for Engage is five partners that, each in their own way, emphasise interdisciplinary cooperation through innovation work in real projects. ‘The centre allows for more cooperation across both institution and faculty boundaries.Students, professors and other stakeholders are working side by side on projects,’explains Professor Roger Sørheim, Engage’s centre director. The NTNU School of Entrepreneurship contributes to a high level of student engagement by letting the students start their own businesses in interdisciplinary teams. One example is Assistep, which has since 2012 been developing an assistive device for people who have difficulty getting up and down stairs. The enterprise has now installed its product in more than 100 institutions and private homes.

‘This is precisely the kind of drive we want Engage to stimulate in the general student body’, says Professor Sørheim.

Strong student engagement

Another good example of student engagement is Spark* NTNU, which is one of the consortium partners. Professor Gry Agnete Alsos from Nord University Business School describes it as follows: ‘Spark NTNU is a student-run guidance service for students with an idea that they want to realise. In addition, Spark* NTNU administers the Pengesprøyten scheme, which is a grant scheme where students can apply for up to NOK 25,000 in funding.’Since its establishment in 2014, Spark* NTNU has considered about 300 business ideas. A group of students at Nord University is currently looking into the possibility of introducing the Spark NTNU model there and adapting it to local conditions. ‘Students’ learning is taking place both inside and outside the classroom. We want to facilitate an outlet for students’ engagement for entrepreneurship and learning outside the auditorium too,’ says Alsos.

A third example of student involvement is Experts in Teamwork (EiT), which is a compulsory course for master’s degree students at NTNU. In this course,students are placed in interdisciplinary teams to solve real problems. ‘This gives 160 learning assistants and 12 teaching assistants per year the opportunity to train as facilitators. Together with the lecturers, they are part of the facilitator team that plays a key role in the students’ learning in this course,’ says head of EiTBjørn Sortland.

Engagement is a key word

Engagement is a key word and basic principle for the Engage consortium. Together, the partners in Engage will develop education that gives students the knowledge and expertise required to meet the challenges of the future, and make them change agents who are willing and able to implement changes and solve problems creatively. Professor Martin Steinert of TrollLABS gave the following description of the research laboratory: ‘This is not a think tank, it is a do-tank.’ ‘This is about putting thoughts into action,’ Sørheim elaborates.