Most of the world's economic growth in the next decade or so is going be in developing economies like India. Developing knowledge on business development and growth in such markets is crucial for educating Norwegian students who are likely to be interacting directly with these markets in the near future. At the same time, there is a need to increase the number of students with entrepreneurial skills. Having an entrepreneurial mindset is increasingly seen as an asset, especially in tackling challenges related to sustainability, poverty and development. To facilitate this, it is required to develop, test and document new learning approaches and to engage more students and faculty in this.
The Network for Engaged Entrepreneurship in Developing Economies (NEED) project will do this by creating a mechanism for student engagement with meaningful sustainability focused entrepreneurial projects of societal value.
The NEED network of institutions in India, Norway and the USA will generate live projects that students from across disciplines will have the opportunity to work on with guidance from academic and subject experts. They will also have the opportunity to interact with innovators and entrepreneurs from developing countries. Through its activities, the partnership will also document and develop knowledge on the challenges and processes involved in starting up and scaling businesses in developing countries and on the process of entrepreneurial learning. By integrating this work into courses, the NEED project will significantly boost research based entrepreneurial education in Norway.
In January 2020 23 students traveled to rural India and worked on diverse challenges such as: developing a business model for a women owned/operated electric rickshaw for rural mobility; assessing the design of services and facilities for a rural market hub; value addition to food products using a community owned and community operated model; strategy for replicating a model for organic waste utilization; and eco-tourism focusing on rural home stays. These projects not only gave these students the opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial skills and mindset and raising their awareness of developmental challenges, but the work on the students have helped in improving the delivery of such services in rural India.
In January 2021 29 students worked with innovators and entrepreneurs from rural India on challenges such as: assessing the market for a modified walker with adjustable legs to assist the differently abled; market research and expansion potential assessment for adaptive clothing designed for the differently abled; assessing market potential for plant pots made out of cow-dung and for the machine to make such pots; improving the market strategy for a multi-purpose food processing machine enabling on-location processing of agricultural products; assessing the market potential for a roll-on roll-off modified three wheeler vehicle for those using wheelchairs. The students were able to engage with the innovators and develop their entrepreneurial thinking skills. At the same time, the students' inputs helped the innovators and entrepreneurs in getting their innovations to the market.
In January 2022 25 students worked with innovators and entrepreneurs from rural India on challenges such as: assessing the market for straws made of fallen coconut leaves for an entrepreneur also providing training and employment to rural women; development of a market expansion toolkit for an entrepreneur with an innovative tool for harvesting groundnuts; market research and assessment of market potential for an electricity-free clay mini refrigerator; designing a customer survey for need and market assessment for expansion to Europe for a differently abled entrepreneur’s adaptive clothing line for the differently abled; a sales tool and sales strategy for a machine developed to efficiently remove water hyacinth, which is a weed infesting lakes. These projects enabled the students from different disciplines to work together in teams and apply their diverse skills in finding solutions to challenges being faced by the innovators and entrepreneurs in getting their innovations to the market.
In this project, the students had the opportunity to learn about and reflect on how different contexts present different challenges that need innovative solutions. Dealing with unfamiliar contexts, working with a diverse team and innovators from rural India, and developing solutions under conditions of often incomplete and uncertain knowledge and limited time, also gave the students the opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial mindset and skills. In addition, the challenges the students worked on were related to innovations that seek to solve problems of some of the most disadvantaged people. Working directly with the innovators was a motivational factor for several students, and the project contributes to the development of change agents for the better.
The most significant outcomes of the NEED project are related to students in higher education at NTNU and the innovators and entrepreneurs in rural India. The NEED project enabled students to engage in projects that helped develop their entrepreneurial mindset and entrepreneurial skills. This was achieved by using the project funds to select relevant challenges for students to work on. These challenges were related to innovations seeking to solve problems faced by people in rural India, a context not familiar to most of the students and which compelled them to deal with uncertainty and an unfamiliar context. Further, the project facilitated direct interaction between students, rural innovators and entrepreneurs, the context of their work and with context experts from the partner organizations. This aided the process of student’s reflection on how their own theoretical knowledge, experiences and skills could be utilized for the betterment of society, thus enabling reflection on the concept of ‘being a change agent for the better’. Nearly 80 students participated in courses organized by the project.
The students’ work on these challenges and the inputs provided by the students were valuable for the innovators and entrepreneurs in improving their innovation and its utilization in the market. 15 such innovators and their projects were aided by the students’ work, which provided solutions to specific issues faced by them. In addition, the project was able to identify over 150 potential projects that students could work on to develop their entrepreneurial mindset and skills.
The project provided an opportunity to conduct research on entrepreneurial learning and led to the development of three research papers. The project was able to provide an avenue for formal cooperation between NTNU and the partner organizations in India and further collaborations with the partners in Norway and the USA. This can be the basis for developing new collaborations in the future.
The NEED project focuses on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skill development by engaging students in the process of starting businesses and scaling it in developing countries. By bringing together world-class education institutions and practitioners from Norway, USA and India it also develops knowledge that improves entrepreneurial education and its impact on society. Having an entrepreneurial mindset is increasingly seen as an asset irrespective of the context one works in. There is a need to increase the number of students with entrepreneurial skills. To facilitate this, it is required to develop, test and document new learning approaches and to engage more students and faculty in this. The NEED network will do this by creating a mechanism for student engagement with meaningful sustainability focused entrepreneurial projects of societal value and a system for relevant guidance from academic and subject experts enabling entrepreneurial skill development in students in higher education in Norway. Through its activities, the partnership will also develop knowledge on the challenges and processes involved in starting up and scaling businesses in developing countries and on the process of entrepreneurial learning. The NEED project will establish grounds for students in higher education to work with entrepreneurship projects from developing countries addressing social and environmental issues. By integrating this work into courses and enabling guidance to students from world leading researchers in entrepreneurship, along with innovators, entrepreneurs and subject experts from developing countries, the NEED project will significantly boost research based entrepreneurial education in Norway. The project is closely linked to Engage - Centre for Engaged Education through Entrepreneurship, a Centre for Excellence in Higher Education (SFU), and this is an important vessel to spread the knowledge to a comprehensive amount of students.
INTPART-International Partnerships for Excellent Education and Research