Spark* ignites the entrepreneurial spirit in students – and the curiosity of researchers

By Lise Aaboen, professor, NTNU

The impact of Spark* in new book about research on Business and Technology Incubation and Acceleration

Spark* is an important member of Engage and the student entrepreneurship ecosystem at NTNU. All students with a venture idea are welcome to join Spark* as an extracurricular activity. Students with some entrepreneurial experience guide other students in how to develop their ventures further. Skills and competencies from NTNU School of Entrepreneurship students and other student entrepreneurs is thereby spread to students in all disciplines. The events and the community surrounding Spark* also constitute and important context for entrepreneurial activities. It is therefore easy to understand that students, educators and university managers find Spark* interesting. But why do researchers also find Spark* interesting?

Students with some entrepreneurial experience guide other students

The majority of studies on entrepreneurs that are receiving guidance focus on mentors or coaches that could be characterized as experts of their field with far more experience and knowledge about the subject compared to the entrepreneur. The rather unique feature of Spark* is that the guidance is provided by someone who have maybe one more year of entrepreneurial experience compared to the entrepreneur. The provided guidance have advantages such as frequent availability, informality and high-level task relatedness that provide effect on the student entrepreneurs’ skill development.

Student entrepreneurs have other needs

Student entrepreneurs are less concerned with large investments, tangible resources and large office spaces in order to develop their ventures. A small co-working space is available as well as opportunities to apply for small amounts of seed money to build a very first prototype. However, the recruitment of skilled student team members with the technical knowledge needed for the products to be developed is the most essential activity in addition to networking.

Current and future research on Spark*

In ‘Handbook of Research on Business and Technology Incubation and Acceleration’ edited by Sarfraz A. Mian, Magnus Klofsten and Wadid Lamine, a bookchapter about Spark* is one of around 30 chapters exploring incubation and acceleration of ventures. The chapter about Spark* focus in particular on the effects of time and guidance on the skill development and two long-time Spark*-members are among the authors. The other chapters in the book focus on the incubation concept, incubators as part of ecosystems, incubators in different national contexts and factors that are important for incubation. There is still a lot to explore in Spark*. For instance, there are still many processes connected to the guidance activity, the venture creation process and the student learning processes that are not fully investigated from a research point of view. Furthermore, the Spark* concept is currently being established at other campuses in Norway and internationally, thus providing opportunities to study contextual issues.

More information about the book here

More research about Spark*:

Haneberg, D.H. 2019. Entrepreneurial learning as an effectual process. The Learning Organization. 26 (6): 631-647.

Haneberg, D.H. & Aaboen, L. 2020. Incubation of technology-based student ventures: The importance of networking and team recruitment. Technology in Society. 63. 101402.