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Transforming Universities Towards Entrepreneurship: the TRUE project

Innovation and entrepreneurship are activities frequently perceived as abstract or distant from the reality of common people, often considered something reserved just for a few privileged ones. The fact, though, is that most people can develop and implement valuable innovations and become entrepreneurs/intrapreneurs. A large quantity of tangible projects being born within the framework of the European Union through the Next Generation funds sheds hope and contributes to make visible for everyone the new realities being built in Europe. 

In this scenario where innovation and entrepreneurship are slowly integrated into the daily life of European citizens, universities play a major role in transforming cultures. Among the relevant activities led by them during the last years, the “TRUE – Transforming Universities Towards Entrepreneurship” project celebrates now a year impacting positively on several university communities all around different European countries. 

“We are very satisfied for not only having exceeded our initial objectives, but also for the quality of each of the actions carried out. Our ambition and confidence in the impact of the TRUE project is only growing.“ 

– Dr. Claudio Cruz, Director of StartUB! and TRUE IP   

The main objective of TRUE is to generate an impact on the educational ecosystem to rebuild the wide gap still present between entrepreneurship, teaching and research. TRUE, a consortium of 8 institutions collaborating with the aim of removing the obstacles present in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship, defines itself as a powerful promoter of accessibility for students and academic and non-academic staff to educational, companion and other tools in this context.

The initiative, led and promoted by the University of Barcelona, includes the involvement of four universities, a non-profit entity and three business from different European countries. Based on using education, training and personalized support as mechanisms to develop innovative and entrepreneurial skills for European citizens, TRUE expects to directly impact 4,000 people throughout its initial phase to later reach the ambitious number of 19,000 in 2030.

The effects from the Significant Changes led by TRUE over the last few months are already impacting positively on university communities and fostering cultural changes. From Extremadura to Montpellier, passing through Lisbon and Barcelona, the quantity and quality of initiatives promoted under TRUE as a project through its initial phase is wide.

“The main factor in the success of the TRUE project is undoubtedly the consolidation of a diligent, committed and responsible work team with a great vocation of service to our university communities. It is extremely stimulating to collaborate in a culture of fraternity, respect and mutual support. I am very proud to coordinate this project.” 

– Dr. Liz Arroyo, TRUE Project Manager 

University of Barcelona (UB). Rethinking university entrepreneurship. 

Societies move towards sustainability, digitalization and inclusion, driving entrepreneurship in the same direction, and the University of Barcelona is setting the pace of change leveraging its efforts in the European tools created by the European Commission. 

Significant Changes applied in the institutional and people dimensions have promoted improvements in adopting the Sustainable Development Goals as a driver for change, boosting the incubator, redefining the entrepreneurship vision, generating inclusive entrepreneurship, incorporating an applied investigation approach and involving all the university community members as a part of the democratization process for innovative and entrepreneurial education. 

The University of Barcelona has identified strengths and opportunities to create a leading entrepreneurial university ecosystem within the European dimension. The mission, boosted by the Significant Changes defined by TRUE, is to consolidate a cultural change to imbibe innovative and entrepreneurial skills in a new educational model capable of training the future generation of social innovators and entrepreneurs. The end goal, then, is to foster the generation of life-changing solutions at all levels of society, increasing the quality of life of European citizens and boosting economic growth and competitiveness. 

University of Extremadura (UNEX). The 4 + 365 connection for a world based on competencies: Ágora and the Ágora Network. 

The world, conceived as brittle, anxious, non-linear and incomprehensible, is highly changeable and demands for a competence approach from the social and business environment, and the University of Extremadura doesn’t want to lose the pace of change. 

Significant Changes applied in the institutional, innovation and business dimensions have promoted improvements in developing the Ágora Network, implementing the hyperaula, applying the npS methodology and changing the learning processes to create ECI (emotionally and competently intelligent) people. 

The University of Extremadura has increased and reinforced connections with its community, getting positive reactions to the hyperaula model and generating physical spaces as productive work areas. The mission, thanks to the Significant Changes motivated by TRUE, is to establish the “InnovacCión” model as a concept of permanent, open and connected meeting to promote competence performance within ForAgora and CongressAgora, spaces that provide people with high employability and wellbeing rates. 

University of Montpellier (UM). PLUM: Easy detection of software innovations. 

The generation of software involving several departments of the institution for knowledge and data transfer has become outdated and not easily traceable in an accessible and open digital paradigm, and the University of Montpellier doesn’t want to lose the pace of change. 

Significant Changes applied in the institutional dimension have promoted improvements in creating a platform to implement easy detection of software innovations, having a first version of the tool finalised and ready to be tested by the research units involved. 

The University of Montpellier has already experienced a wide range of transformations in this area. The mission, thanks to the Significant Changes motivated by TRUE, is to revolutionize the procedure of software detection and its accessibility as it becomes more and more efficient. 

Polytechnic Institute of Lisbon (IPL). IPL path to entrepreneurship. 

The IPL identifies, in an initial phase, few efficient mechanisms for preparing and supporting entrepreneurs, despite having implemented an entrepreneurship culture for many years. A changing world full of transformations requires constant innovation, and the Polytechnic Institute of Lisbon doesn’t want to lose the pace of change. 

Significant Changes applied in the institutional, partnership, innovation, business and people dimensions have promoted improvements in defining the strategy to implement a Technology Transfer Office to foster the technology transfer of the research results to the market, fostering collaboration and relations with external stakeholders and outlining the strategy to improve the incubator to make it more efficient and accessible to the potential users. 

The Polytechnic Institute of Lisbon has optimized its entrepreneurship model, implementing awareness about entrepreneurship for students and academic staff, increasing the support to start-ups and considering new actors within the university ecosystem as valuable for activities. The mission, thanks to the Significant Changes motivated by TRUE, is to better identify communities keen on entrepreneurship by improving the internal structure of the institution. 

Future goals and challenges – Building the world of tomorrow. 

As a summary, the Significant Changes generated within the framework of TRUE can be absolutely conceived as the main actor of transformation and progress. In a context of a rapidly transforming European Union, TRUE has become an asset of change both for Higher Education Institutions and the generations that will build the world of tomorrow, the actual young European citizens.