A research conducted by the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Turku reveals that the academic leaders of Finnish universities have a favourable attitude towards promoting entrepreneurship in universities as part of the social impact of universities. Notably, the universities are searching for direction in this field. On the other hand, lack of multiple views and common discussion is perceived as a challenge.
Academic leaders identified two types of entrepreneurship within their universities and promoting entrepreneurial behaviour was perceived in a very positive light. Academic entrepreneurship is perceived to support the realisation of some of the universities’ goals, but at the same time threatening the realisation of other goals.
– According to the academic leaders, the working life necessitates entrepreneurial attitude and associated skills. Teaching them is now becoming a “natural” part of universities’ activities. The development of entrepreneurial behaviour was related to strengthening the indirect economic impact of the universities, says Professor Ulla Hytti, who is the director of the research project at the University of Turku.
The leaders view academic entrepreneurship at the university as commercialising research, which includes direct economic impact. Part of the leaders have a positive stance towards this, and others are hesitant. Notably, academic entrepreneurship is found to be more suitable in certain fields of science and for a selected group of researchers.
Universities Are Seeking Their Own Direction
According to the results, Finnish universities are characterised by a general benevolence to entrepreneurship and economic efficiency. In the midst of positivity, each university seeks its own direction in the field of entrepreneurship and economic impact. The search for direction is guided by the perceptions of academic leaders about the aspirations of business, government actions, and university strategies.
Different forms of entrepreneurship and their impact outside the economic impact are, however, left unclear among the academic leaders.
– A broader discussion between universities would provide fresh and versatile views on this topic. New perspectives could contribute to developing entrepreneurship and impact while at the same time respecting other goals set in each university, comments the research consortium director, Professor Päivi Eriksson from the University of Eastern Finland.
Entrepreneurship as a Way for Universities to Differentiate Themselves
In the 2010s, entrepreneurship and economic impact seem to have become a way for Finnish universities to differentiate themselves. Perhaps this is why universities have not experienced a clear need to join their forces in the field of entrepreneurship and economic impact, in Finland or internationally.
– Only few academic leaders have in-depth knowledge of international discussions and approaches to entrepreneurship and economic impact. Finnish universities want to expand their international activities, but the role of entrepreneurship remains open in these visions, says Postdoctoral Researcher Kirsi Peura from the University of Turku.
The research is based on interviews with the academic top and middle management of Finnish universities in 2016–2018. A total of 37 participants took part in the interviews that addressed the societal role of universities, entrepreneurship at the university, and the future of universities. The research is part of the Academic Entrepreneurship as a Social Process (ACE) research project funded by the Academy of Finland in 2016-2020.
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