Business Impact Article - Posted 1/21/2008
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New Curriculum Helps Technology Students Become Young Software Entrepreneurs
Adding business and entrepreneurial training to a technical curriculum is known to improve the calibre of graduates. But combining business skills with education programmes has long been a challenge for faculties.
Microsoft has formed partnerships with universities across Europe to bridge the gap between technology education and the development of entrepreneurial skills. To this end, it is running a pilot initiative to encourage the use of a new course called “Software Entrepreneurship for Students.”
Software Entrepreneurship for Students is a university-level training curriculum that is focused on developing the entrepreneurial skills of technology students. It can be adapted quickly for use across a variety of academic settings.
Microsoft developed the programme in partnership with Agitavi Research Corporation, a specialist provider of business research, corporate learning, and management consulting services for the global information and communications technology industry. The programme offers hands-on workshops that provide technical universities and colleges with a flexible management curriculum for science and software students. This curriculum gives the technical faculty the tools they need to introduce students to real-world management skills. It also helps students develop business competencies that help improve their employability on graduation. The content for the course is freely available to download for academic purposes at www.microsoft.com/faculty.
Feedback from Students and Faculty
The Software Entrepreneurship for Students hands-on workshops were piloted during May and June 2007 in preparation for full use the following academic year. They were held at academic institutions in Portugal, Poland, Germany, Spain, and Denmark, and attracted a mixture of faculty members and students.
Attendees at the Portugal workshop included Miguel Vicente, a Microsoft Student Partner at the Faculdade de Engenharia (Faculty of Engineering) at Universidade do Porto. Microsoft Student Partners help to create awareness for this curriculum at their university and encourage its use by faculty and student associations.
||“The Software Entrepreneurship for Students programme…may be the most practical approach for many institutions.”
Polytechnic Institute of Porto
Vicente believes the Software Entrepreneurship for Students curriculum is not just important for students aspiring to become entrepreneurs and business founders. He says: “The curriculum also provides the kind of positive approach that is valuable for employees within existing businesses who want to make a difference in the market.”
The peer-to-peer initiative, driven by Microsoft Student Partners such as Vicente, is one of several initiatives planned in 2008 to increase support for the Software Entrepreneurship for Students in Portugal.
Value for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Paulo Sousa, a faculty member of the School of Engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of Porto, also attended the Portugal pilot workshop. He says that the institute recently added the entrepreneurship curriculum, taught by business professors, to its study programme. He believes the programme could be of significant value to other institutions.
“The process of adding new content to an institution’s curriculum is often complex and time consuming,” Sousa says. “The Software Entrepreneurship for Students programme taught in summer schools or evening workshops may be the most practical approach for many institutions.”
Connecting Science and Business Education
According to Henrik Westergaard Hansen, Denmark Academic Relations Manager at Microsoft, the Software Entrepreneurship for Students pilot programme has generated strong interest and a true commitment from faculty members in Denmark. Hansen aims to use the curriculum to strengthen the link between institutions that traditionally focus on either technical or business education, and help them form valuable partnerships.
Pia Peterson, a faculty member who attended the pilot workshop in Denmark, says: “The great thing about this programme is that not only does it present content that is new, but that the context and the frameworks around the content are flexible and simple.”
Curriculum Fits with Start-up Centre
In Poland, the pilot Software Entrepreneurship for Students programme was deployed by Microsoft in partnership with the Wielkopolska Province Centre of Advanced Information Technologies, a government-backed organisation focused on supporting the growth of new IT companies.
StartUp-IT is a key programme that runs at the centre. This helps young students and scientists to create business opportunities from excellent business ideas and technical solutions through workshops, seminars, and technological support.
Zbigniew Krzewinski, StartUp-IT Programme Manager, explains that the aim of the programme is to inspire young entrepreneurs and to help them create their own businesses in Poland and worldwide. He says: “Hosting the pilot Software Entrepreneurship for Students workshop was a natural fit for the centre because it introduces attendees to real-world business management skills, supports entrepreneurs, and improves the employment outlook for the next generation of workers.”
The StartUp-IT programme will include the Software Entrepreneurship for Students content as part of the free and open programming it runs on weekends. It also plans to use the content in two-day workshops targeting people interested in entrepreneurship.
Benefits to Local Software Economy
Professor Peter Russo, Chief Executive of the Strascheg Centre for Entrepreneurship and Professor for Entrepreneurship at the Munich University of Applied Sciences in Germany, says numerous studies have shown the positive economic impact of developing vibrant, entrepreneur-based local software industries.
“There are tremendous benefits to the local software economy through teaching entrepreneurship,” he says. “It opens students’ eyes to the possibilities of bringing their developments to the market while they are at university or during their working careers.” He adds that educational institutions also embrace entrepreneurial teaching as an effective way of differentiating themselves from other learning institutions.
The challenge in Germany is to find flexible teaching content that can be implemented across a variety of academic structures to support the nation’s unique faculty and institutions. Thomas Stowasser, Business Manager and Local Software Economy Initiative Lead for Microsoft in Germany, says: “The number of high-tech founders in Germany is at an all-time low and we aim to support and motivate the students with this special know-how to foster innovation and jobs.”
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