The practice addresses the lack of variety in entrepreneurial team composition when developing new ideas and when starting new companies.
Most often entrepreneurial teams of academic start-ups are formed by students and researchers belonging to the same department or the same field of study. This reduces the innovative potential of new ventures as cross-fertilization between different knowledge domains is a major factor in producing radical innovations. To reach these objectives we designed a specific space within the main university campus, the Contamination Lab, and developed a specific programme that runs every academic year, oriented to promoting entrepreneurial attitudes and innovation.
The space is organized in four areas: the cHouse (for group work), the cClass (for seminars and other learning activities), the cWork (for hosting nascent entrepreneurs) and the cFun (for relax). The programme involves about 50 students coming from all the curricula (Medicine, Engineering, Economy, Natural Sciences, Rural Sciences) and all years of study: from undergraduate students to doctoral students. It is a place of “contamination” between students and between students and the outside world. In the last edition it also involved students from two other universities and from a high school.
The main beneficiaries of the practice are students. The main stakeholders are the university and the local community as the Contamination Lab has contributed to improve the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The cLab was autonomously financed by UNIVPM. The investment cost for structuring the four areas was about 60.000€. Besides the coordinator, the program involves two people for the organization of activities and the tutoring of teams. The overall annual budget for the programme is about 100.000€.
Evidence of success
• The high number of students applying for the programme
• The positive feedback given by participants
• The quality of entrepreneurial projects developed as measured by the assessment of the evaluation committee
• The number of projects developed within the programme (about 8 per edition) and of those that continued after the programme (about 3).
• The main aim of the programme is to foster entrepreneurial attitudes of students, beside the immediate creation of new ventures.
After the first edition, we realized that a semester is a too short time for attaining the aims of the programme, which is now run on an annual basis. This has reduced the number of students that can participate to the programme but greatly improved the results we are getting from it.
Potential for learning or transfer
We consider this as a best practice not only for the its measurable results (participants, entrepreneurial projects, etc.) but also for the enthusiasm it created within participating students and for the interest showed by all the stakeholders of the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem. It has rapidly become a hub for most of the initiatives on innovation and entrepreneurship carried out by the university and other subjects
This project resulted from a discussion between leading entrepreneurial universities in Italy, stimulated by the Italian Ministry of University and Research. This discussion resulted in the production of guidelines for the implementation and monitoring of the programme.
Given the success experienced by those universities that acted as pioneer in the development of the programme, in 2016 the Italian Ministry of University and Research issued a call for the replication of this practice in other universities.
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