ECIU Start-up Discovery Journey

| Michaela Nesvarova

Entrepreneurship is everywhere within the ECIU network. New business ideas and hopeful start-ups pop up at the partner universities every day. To give young entrepreneurs a better fighting chance in today's ‘global village’, ECIU universities have decided to harvest the expertise of the entire network and create a joint international ‘start-up accelerator’ programme.

The core idea behind the programme is to accelerate the development of young companies,’ explains Maria Johnston from the Dublin City University (DCU), the institute that first submitted the proposal for the programme. ‘It is a completely shared programme, not to be led by only one institute. Its main goal is to use expertise of all the partners, all the different backgrounds and cultures.’

‘Each region and university has a different approach to entrepreneurship and commercialization of research,’ says Shane Carter, the programme coordinator based at the DCU. ‘Which is why it was important for us to bring people together, give them easy access to local mentors and allow them to form strong collaborations with their colleagues from other ECIU universities.’  

‘Short, compact and action packed’

The pilot of the programme was organized in the fall of 2017 and involved participants from five ECIU universities. It took place in three ECIU member locations – Dublin, Aalborg, Linköping - and consisted of training workshops relevant for starting companies, such as courses on Financial Modeling, Pitching or Sales Strategy. ‘We wanted to create a really immersive experience - the programme was short, compact and action packed,’ describes Carter. ‘We want to give the start-ups a solid foundation before they enter the real world.’

‘We want to give start-ups a solid foundation before they enter the real world’

The pilot programme was open to any starting companies from the participating universities and eventually involved ten teams, mostly formed by students and PhD researchers. ‘We got a very good response from our participants,’ says Johnston. ‘We believe they really benefited from seeing different ecosystems and from networking among each other. The pilot ended last November and the ECIU Board decided the same month, to run the programme again next year fall.

What do the participants think?

The end of programme was marked by a pitching contest. An independent panel of entrepreneur 'dragons' selected Happy Scribe as the winner, winning a prize of 2000 euro.

With origins at the DCU in Ireland, Happy Scribe offers an automated transcription tool for journalists and researchers. They claimed the victory thanks to their  ‘break neck adoption speed and customer validation’.

What did the team think of the programme? ‘The most interesting part was to meet other young entrepreneurs, exchange ideas and learn from each other,’ says André Bastié, co- founder of Happy Scribe. ‘Visiting other countries was also really useful. It showed us that we don't see entrepreneurship the same way throughout Europe and it provided us with different insights into our business.’

 

Linköping University organized the final workshop

Linköping University (LiU) is one of the universities hosting a workshop  and also the final pitch of the ECIU Startup Discovery Programme. ‘The aims of the programme agree well with LiU’s ambition to demonstrate in translating ideas and research results into practical applications. The participation from our side is handled by the university innovation office, LiU Innovation,’ says Vice-Chancellor Helen Dannetun.

Ten projects were selected to participate in the pilot programme in Dublin, Aalborg and Linköping University during the autumn of 2017. They were all at preliminary stages, and come from several fields. Linköping University’s contribution was the ‘Worldish’ project, with its digital translation tool ‘Helen’, intended for use within medical care. The service removes language barriers between patients and healthcare personnel.

‘Even though the projects cover an enormous diversity of fields, they face many of the same challenges. The various startup projects have benefited greatly by exchanging experiences with each other and establishing international networks,’ says Gio Fornell, head of LiU Innovation.

LiU Innovation

The mission of the innovation office at Linköping University, LiU Innovation, is to support students, researchers and employees at LiU as they develop their ideas. LiU Innovation also plays an important role in knowledge transfer between Linköping University and the business world in the region. 

ECIU

ECIU is a consortium of twelve, young universities that share their core values. Innovation and entrepreneurship are in the DNA of the members. The universities come from regions where the economy came under pressure following the decline of traditional sectors such as textile and shipping. The universities are the result of a regional need to have highly educated people for the economy of the future and to develop new industries. That is why all partners have very close ties to their region and the industry, while also having an international mindset.