Training and Developing Young Engineering Entrepreneurs
The engineering mind is an innovative one, so how are we nurturing our engineering students to achieve their maximum entrepreneurial potential?
Entrepreneurship has emerged as a distinct set of commercial skills and techniques, but when should these extra competences be introduced: during degree programmes, within specialised courses, or in the workplace? With engineering contributing some £481 billion to the UK economy, according to the Office of National Statistics, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing an acceleration of programmes and activities in support of engineering and technological innovation.
There are now many university engineering degree courses that incorporate aspects of hands-on innovation and technical entrepreneurship into their programmes. It could be argued that in exposing students to commercial and business skills and experiences much earlier on in their education, better skilled engineers and, therefore, stronger businesses are created.
Undergraduates are given numerous project opportunities, immersing them in hands-on innovation and technical entrepreneurship. Student teams develop their own project idea out of a general problem area, brainstorm a solution, build and test a prototype, develop a business plan, and present their idea to a review board of ‘potential funders’. The final project for BEng students is a two-term interdisciplinary design course where students undertake real-world projects for industry sponsors.
The UK’s University of Greenwich Faculty of Engineering and Science offers a BEng in design, innovation and entrepreneurship with access to specialist and integrated engineering laboratories. The course provides undergraduates with the knowledge and skills relevant to a career as a professional engineer who can work effectively with current and future engineering product design, development and production/implementation methods.
The programme supports students in understanding the innovative and pioneering approaches in this field and to be able to apply them to the solution of real-world problems, to develop new products and technologies in a financially sustainable way, as well as helping them acquire the knowledge and skills required to perform a variety of professional roles within engineering, design and business, and management roles.
There is also a whole raft of extracurricular activities that supports engineers in refining and sharpening their entrepreneurial skills and techniques. As well as those competitions, clubs and courses run from within university engineering departments, there are numerous competitions and schemes run by outside organisations.