I am relatively new to the SETsquared Partnership, although not new to university knowledge exchange, and completely new to discussing other university business ecosystems. I am still listening at the door with a glass rather than giving my opinion, people who work with me probably know I am programme delivery and output orientated rather than debating the system it is part of.
So, when the invite to attend the ACEEU conference in Florence was presented I definitely felt I was going to be in awe of other institutions. I was not wrong. With a keynote from Jerome Engel, Senior Fellow and Founding Executive Director Emeritus at Lester Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, University of California at Berkeley – I knew I was the one who was going to be schooled in knowledge exchange.
It was great to put some time aside to learn about other university programmes, how they engage with their entrepreneurial community, create new networks, and what works and what doesn’t. It was exactly the inspiration I needed as our ERDF England 2014 to 2020 European Structural and Investment Funds programmes are coming to an end, and we are looking for future inspiration and ideas.
As part of a group of three representing SETsquared, what could Jack, Lydia and I experience and learn to take back to the Partnership?
As with most conferences, from the first session, it was straight into buzz words with phrases such as ‘Triple Helix’ and ‘Vortex universities’ being casually dropped in.
When I think about university business ecosystems I think about innovation centres, cohorts, entrepreneurs in residence, shared prototype spaces, networking, and investment pitches. And during the time at the conference there were plenty of discussions around these themes, and what really caught my attention was other universities working with deprived communities and harder-to-reach businesses.
These included examples from University College Cork engaging with the different neighbourhoods in the city which are traditionally deprived. And the team of the VU Amsterdam which organises ‘Meet & Match’ events in the local area of Amsterdam New-West which included residents as well as Local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and representatives of the Municipality of Amsterdam. We didn’t have to look too far either to look at best practice, an interesting Florence bus ride with representatives from Edge Hill University helped us understand how their staff have strived to work with harder-to-reach and lower productivity SMEs.
We were very honoured to win the ‘Innovation & Entrepreneurship Support of the Year’ award and to learn more about the ACEEU network and how members are using entrepreneurial programmes to increase environmental, society and governance impact.
Thank you to the ACEEU for inviting us to attend the conference and pick up the award. Also thank you to Jack and Lydia for the conversations on how we deliver our parts of the SETsquared ecosystem and how we can learn more from each other and other universities.