Across Europe and the wider OECD area expectations from government and society are growing that the knowledge generated by higher education institutions will have a purpose with positive impact on the economy and society. Part of this is what is often called the ‘third mission’ of higher education institutions, that is, the aim to apply and transform knowledge for economic, social and cultural value creation within the local economy, the country or on a global scale.
Developing an entrepreneurial mindset amongst students and staff has become central. This combination of creativity, initiative, problem-solving, marshalling resources, and mastering technological and financial knowledge is what is needed for success, in any field. Developing the entrepreneurial mindset requires both new skills to be taught, and new ways of teaching them.
With the current Higher Education Strategy, an important first step was made to support Hungarian higher education institutions to become more active in these two aspects. Over the last decade, increased attention from public policy actors and HEI leadership has provided the ground for a significant change process that is required in the culture, organisational structure and capacity of the higher education system, to fully embed engagement activities that will enrich teaching and learning and research.
This process and its emerging results were examined in the new report by the OECD and the European Commission on “Supporting Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Higher Education in Hungary”. The report was launched on 29 November 2017 by the Minister of State for Education of Hungary Laszlo Palkovics, the Deputy Director General of the Directorate-General for Education an Culture of the European Commission Jens Nymand Christensen and the Head of Division, Local Employment, Skills and Social Innovation, and Head of the Local Economic and Employment Development Programme (LEED), OECD Sylvain Giguere.
The report is the result of the HEInnovate Country Review of Hungary which was undertaken by the OECD and the European Commission in co-operation with the Ministry of Human Capacities of Hungary and the Tempus Public Foundation in the period December 2015 to November 2016. The country review has had already concrete policy impact. The Ministry of Human Capacities, in collaboration with the Tempus Public Foundation, has developed a set of practical recommendations and support mechanisms for Hungarian HEIs. An expert group with representatives from various HEIs, innovative companies and various policy actors is supporting this work
The report shows that to effectively support entrepreneurship and innovation, higher education institutions need to be entrepreneurial and innovative themselves in how they organise education, research and engagement with business and the wider world. Several higher education institutions in Hungary have taken a proactive approach and piloted new ways of integrating new teaching methods into the curriculum, developing new activities to stimulate the entrepreneurial mindset, supporting start-up’s, strengthening collaboration with business and the wider world, and taking a more international approach to HEI activities. Study visits to Debrecen University, Semmelweis University, Széchenyi István University, Szent István University, and the Eszterházy Károly University of Applied Sciences revealed several very promising practices, which are presented in the report.
The report identifies areas for improvement, including the following:
- Develop a common definition of and support for the third mission in higher education institutions. Whereas the Higher Education Strategy has raised stakeholders’ awareness of the impact of the third mission on economic, social and cultural development, it does not provide a definition of third mission activities nor does it foresee allocation of funding or staff time.
- Stimulate the collaboration between higher education institutions in strategic areas. In some industries, for example pharmaceuticals and biotech, the market is dominated by large multinational players and Hungary is likely to occupy only a small part of their global network. A collaboration around strategic areas, for example with shared-use agreements for costly research equipment, can help to build competitive strengths in global and regional niche areas. A national-level initiative to facilitate collaboration between HEIs and multinational corporations can strengthen these strategic areas.
- Enhance the involvement of students and young researchers in the entrepreneurial agenda. So far, the focus of entrepreneurship and innovation support in Hungarian higher education institutions has been on staff and spin-offs. A greater emphasis on the entrepreneurial activities of students and young researchers is recommended in moving forward. Particular attention should be placed on students and staff returning from international mobility, as well as international students and staff.
HEInnovate is a key initiative to make Europe more innovative and entrepreneurial as it supports individual higher education institutions in their ongoing transformation. The free, online HEInnovate Tool (http://www.HEInnovate.eu), supports higher education institutions to organise strategic discussions and debate around entrepreneurship and innovation. A wide range of stakeholders can be easily involved from within the higher education institution (leadership, staff, students, academic and administrative staff) and the local economy. Easy-to-read graphs show where stakeholders agree or disagree and provide a basis for strategic discussions and debate in board meetings, the senate or public events. The online tool is available in 24 languages; it is currently used by more than 800 HEIs around the world.