Author: Alejandro Fornés
As part of the activities of the EIT HEI Skills2Scale project, the Polytechnic University of València (UPV) hosted in the past 28th of June a round table in which panellists from different sectors gathered together to share their ideas about the actual model and the role of universities as innovation agent, specifically in the field of deep tech, 5G and beyond. Partners of the project also took part in the talks.
Current entrepreneurship ecosystem
In the first panel, representatives from the UPV (Telecommunication school, Innovation and Knowledge transfer office, IDEAS entrepreneurial area, Master of telecommunication and Spontaneous generation area) depicted and discussed about the current entrepreneurship ecosystem and the model for transferring innovations stemming from the university to the market. The current model is bottom-up, with ideas and innovations coming from students, research centres and academic staff, which can be the base of future start-ups and spin-offs, supported by the entrepreneurial services from the university.
Some members of the university itself were not aware of the plethora of entrepreneurship services that the university provides, an issue shared also by the other present entities regardless of their sector and size. Representatives agreed that a long-term structure and communication strategy, continuously updated, is needed to fully exploit the possibilities of collaboration. This is not trivial and should be tailored per entity, regardless of their size, and dedicated agents might be needed for internal communication.
Graduates from technical universities are technically well-qualified, still, they lack of enough expertise to move to the business arena without support. Hence, although there was quorum in the success of “producing” CTOs, different opinions raised with respect to the role of the university in forming CEOs, currently being an optional or extracurricular formation. “Is the university prepared to form CEOs? Are professors, in general with little business experience, the right professionals to give such kind of formation? CEOs ‘are’ or can be formed?” Although some voices expressed that the current model is good enough and graduates are prepared for the market, other opinions aligned with the view that they need time, live experiences and, to some extent, some natural talent, to be successful as CEOs.
Coming back to the creation of start-ups and spin-offs, some representatives exposed that giving entrepreneurial graduates access to mentoring and consultancy activities can be enough to complement their business skills. However, this was questioned from the private sector, especially in cases that there is an external investor. The convenience of including the figure of professional CEOs was debated, as they can support emerging businesses and making them sustainable thanks to their knowledge of the market, experience and soft skills. In such case, CEOs need to be motivated, and thus should have a share of the company.
Policy makers, innovation agents and 5G businesses.
The second panel was formed by policy makers, innovation agents, and 5G businesses (start-up and telco operator). Continuing with the previous topic, companies are not expecting that technical graduates have high CEO capacities, but rather that they know the basics of how real companies work (budgets, formalities, work ethics, etc.) and possess a set of soft skills related, for example, to express ideas and talk in public. Above all, they value their adaptability and willingness to learn, especially in the changing technological arena. One key concept that raised was “professional itineraries”. As individuals, people should understand what they want to become and have and look for according formation or experiences.
On the other hand, policy makers and innovation agents, apart from soft skills, miss advanced formation in regulations and standards, requirements formalization, and social aspects. Thus, they tend to incorporate more mature experts rather than graduates. In contrast to companies, in some areas of the public sector there has been spotted some lack of competences in management. Some talent plans are being promoted to enhance the management skills of technical people.
Finally, funding and regulation aspects were discussed. Currently, it is easier to access European than Spanish funding, which also has a higher bureaucratic effort. Besides, everyone agreed that regulation and control are needed, as they differentiate Europe from other regions (in rights and ethics). Still, representatives from the private sector stated that strict regulation is a burden, and can cost significant money if it changes continuously. Hence, it was agreed that a better structure and a more fluid public-private communication is required.
The Skills2Scale partners took an active role in the discussions, sharing their opinions. In the following events, to be held in Rovaniemi, Liberec and Athens, a deeper look into these regions will be analyzed. The final reports of these events will be released in November 2023 and July 2024 in the project web (https://skills2scale.eu/dissemination/deliverables/).