The importance of entrepreneurs in focus

​The topic of the 2012 William Chalmers lecture on 5 November was entrepreneurship. Mats Lundqvist, co-founder and director of the Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship, spoke about students being one of the most important driving forces in creating sustainable value in society.


Mats Lundqvist took the audience of more than 200 people on a trip that started in the mid-1990s when he, together with Sören Sjölander, professor at the Department of Technology Management and Economics, realized that there was a need of competent people who understand research as well as industry and trade and can function as a bridge between them. They identified the need of the so-called entrepreneurial ability – the willingness to act on opportunities and ideas and transform them into value for others.
 
- A value that can be financial, cultural as well as social, Mats Lundqvist says.

Entrepreneurship, a governing idea in Chalmers’ history

This was the start of the Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship in 1997. The purpose of the establishment of this education was twofold– to educate more entrepreneurial people and to create new growth companies based on innovative research. After 15 years, the result is more than 300 trained growth entrepreneurs and 54 new companies.
 
- The fact that Chalmers is so successful in this is that it runs in our blood. Entrepreneurship has been a governing idea throughout the history of Chalmers starting with William Chalmers, through historical names such as Carl Palmstedt and Gustaf Dalén to more recent persons such as Torkel Wallmark, Holger Bohlin and Sören Sjölander. The Chalmers management has also been consenting and supportive of the growth of the School of Entrepreneurship, Mats Lundqvist says.
 
During the evening, Mats Lundqvist summarized the first 15 years of the School of Entrepreneurship and, with pride, he could mention companies such as Vehco, Avinode and Oxeon – all companies in the top-four list of fast growing incubator companies and all founded by students at the School of Entrepreneurship.
 
- The fact is that the companies started at the Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship since1997 represent 27 % of the turnover for all Swedish university connected start-up companies. The key to this is to dare to place entrepreneurship at the forefront, Mats Lundqvist says.

The idea behind the School of Entrepreneurship

The concept of letting student entrepreneurs manage promising ideas from research and development was initially met with some scepticism. But over the years it has been proven that it doesn’t just function – it is also much better than other ways to realize research and innovations.
 
The Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship has over the years become Sweden’s most prominent start-up environment. Every year they evaluate almost 150 innovative ideas and start about twelve projects together with the students. At present, five to six of these projects are the basis of new start-up companies. But the School of Entrepreneurship reaches even beyond the formation of companies and the education of start-up entrepreneurs.
 
- The majority of our alumi in fact end up in other parts of industry and trade, many of them in established companies, both in Sweden and abroad. This indicates an increased demand for entrepreneurial individuals also in established companies, Mats Lundqvist explains.

Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship today

Today Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship has grown into an established Master’s programme which accepts 50 new students each year. At present, the school offers three different tracks, but work is in progress to broaden the education and offer two additional tracks, one within Corporate Entrepreneurship and one within Social Entrepreneurship. Furthermore, together with Chalmers Invest they have established a leading incubator, Encubator AB, which supports the students in business development.
 
Mats Lundqvist concluded his William Chalmers lecture by asking a question for the audience to take home:
- If a single Master’s programme has managed to achieve this much, what would we achieve if all students at Chalmers get more entrepreneurial elements in their education? Perhaps we’ve only seen the top of the iceberg so far?
 
 
Text: Viktor Brunnegård
Photo: Jan-Olof Yxell
Translation: Eva Burford

Published: Mon 18 Mar 2013.