Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Applied Sciences Munich

Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Applied Sciences Munich

This case shows how the creation of a new centre can be used as a focus for knowledge exchange, innovation and enterprise and be successfully integrated into the working of an established University. The Munich University of Applied Sciences (MUAS) was founded in 1971. It hosts 18 000 students, 475 professors, 750 contracted lecturers and 745 administrative staff, and is the second largest university of applied sciences in Germany. Students can choose between over 85 bachelor, master and diploma programmes offered by 14 faculties in a wide range of areas, including engineering, design, economics and social work. The Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship (SCE) was established in 2002 by Falk F. Strascheg, a venture capitalist and entrepreneur. It acts as a focal point for Munich University of Applied Sciences’ (MUAS) enterprise and knowledge exchange activities. Munich is a key location for academic entrepreneurship in Germany. Munich is home to 4 public and 9 private HEIs, with a total of 110,000 students. It is estimated that two-thirds of local start-ups were started in an HEI.  SCE’s goal is to nurture entrepreneurial thinking and action through education and business start-up support measures. SCE’s activities include business incubation, delivery of education programmes, international networking and collaboration with external service providers, e.g. venture capital, specialist IT consultants etc. SCE promotes learning in live entrepreneurial settings that enhance effectuation skills. MUAS and SCE take a process-oriented approach to entrepreneurship, either starting with a precise idea or a set of personal competences, skills and resources.

Entrepreneurship promotion and knowledge exchange activities at MUAS and SCE aim to develop entrepreneurs, who know 1) who they are, 2) what they know, and 3) whom they know. The outcome is an entrepreneur who is 1) aware of their own traits, tastes, and abilities and 2) has identified their academic competences and the social networks they belong to. Such individuals have high self-efficacy.  They tend to be effectuation entrepreneurs (Sarasvathy). They are unlikely to use established approaches to market research (such as carefully designed surveys), but prefer “seat-of-the-pants marketing” and selling alliances. Instead of long-term planning and net-present-value analyses, they prefer short term planning. They create strong participatory cultures nurturing the entrepreneur’s relational capital. There is a close collaboration between the leaders of MUAS and the Strascheg Center. There is a shared aspiration, ‘to nurture organisational synergy and maintain flexibility in managing external partnerships.’ 

The following decisions have significantly and positively impacted the success and growth of the Strascheg Center:
●     The centre (SCE) was set up as a separate non-profit organisation (“An-Institut”), affiliated with the university, but operating according to its own management principles.
●     One of the three MUAS vice-presidents was nominated as the person responsible for entrepreneurship and knowledge exchange. This eliminated much of the confusion, and internal competition, around the ‘who is responsible for entrepreneurship?’ question that evolves organically in many Higher Education (HE) institutions.
●     The decision to include Strascheg in the centre’s name positions the centre as linked to the entrepreneurial and investment community in Munich.  This actively attracts individuals and organisations in search of potential investment opportunities. 

Today, the SCE has become a key player in the community in its own right. SCE plays an instrumental role in the “4-Entrepreneurship” network, strategically linking the entrepreneurship support efforts of four Universities in the Munich Area.

Innovative Features

  • HEI - Business/External Relationships for Knowledge Exchange

The HEI is committed to knowledge exchange with industry, society and the public sector

The SCE acts as a focal point for all knowledge exchange activities that carry entrepreneurial potential at MUAS. This positioning of SCE has been supported both internally and externally. Ongoing commitment from the leadership of both MUAS and the Strascheg Foundation has played a central role in the success of the SCE. This clarity of positioning supports all types of relationships with industry.

  • SCE was a founder in creating ‘4Entrepreneurship’, a network between the four main HEIs in Munich which offers joint programmes between these institutions.
  • SCE deploys both systematic and ad-hoc involvement of external stakeholders in teaching. This is achieved by timing events to overlap with each other; e.g. hosting the European Roundtable for Entrepreneurship (EREE) conference to coincide with the Spring School Teaching programme, hence using EREE visitors to deliver keynote presentations and workshops in the Spring School.
  • The SCE intentionally shares staff with MUAS. This creates a single Knowledge Exchange community, which contributes to entrepreneurship support activities. 
  • Staff co-employment between SCE and MUAS is encouraged. Two thirds of SCE-staff have dual roles. Staff combine their SCE role with a MUAS research, or administrative, staff position. This ensures that SCE-staff develop better integration into MUAS’ institutional systems, community and culture. Co-employment supports fast decision making and enables the two institutions to grow in harmony with each other. 
  • An in-house patent office was created in MUAS to respond to the increased demand for in-house assistance with intellectual property issues. This patent office is housed within the FORWIN, which is an alliance between SCE and 13 MAUS departments. This positioning has resulted in the harmonisation of procedures between departments and the SCE.
  • Active secondment of staff is encouraged; e.g. when staffing the FORWIN, a 50% role split was created between the SCE and the FORWIN. As a result, the patent office´s network merged with the SCE network, with harmonisation of systems and procedures between MUAS and SCE. This adds value to both entities.
  • The MUAS study-guidance office, the career centre and the Alumni-relation officer actively collaborate with SCE. New supporting systems have been created to sustain this collaboration.
  • ‘Fakultätspaten’, a body of staff and volunteers, proactively network on behalf of SCE, making and maintaining connections between SCE and the entrepreneurial community. The ‘Fakultätspaten’ act as talent scouts, resource scouts and generally create a wider SCE community and network. This commitment to active networking and idea sharing stimulates the generation of new ideas and businesses. Two recent successes include 1) proto-typing using laser technology to segment forest areas and 2) the creation of a new style of wine glasses that enhance the flavours of wine. 
  • SCE actively invested in new forms of communication. SCE employed a professional communication team to create and maintain a number of communication channels and continuously spread news internally between SCE, MUAS, founders, connected institutions and partners as well as to external media. [http://www.sce.de/presseportal] [http://www.sce.de/news] and [http://www.sce.de/newsletter]
  • SCE Start-up teams are systematically involved in the work of the communication team, as part of a training and coaching strategy, to raise their skills in designing and implementing their own customer and press communication strategies. 
  • Many start-up teams continue to use the SCE press portal to communicate their achievements after graduation. This also provides a role-model linkage for students and future start-up teams.

Lessons learned

  • Anchoring entrepreneurship and knowledge exchange in MUAS’ institutional leadership was an important step in establishing the mandate for SCE to act as gate keeper for entrepreneurial knowledge partnerships across MUAS.
  • Continuous investment in human resources, e.g. through creating the “Fakultätspaten”, was crucial to establishing links at faculty level. The secondment of staff enhanced organisational synergy and harmonised procedures between MUAS and SCE. 
  • Investing in a communication portal was important to raise awareness of knowledge exchange opportunities within the HEI and to increase participation levels.
  • Reducing teaching hours can incentivise professors to share their research for entrepreneurial purposes with students and/or to act as their start-up mentors.
  • Split roles aided understanding and greater harmonisation of procedures between SCE and MUAS, resulting in greater alignment in ways of working.

The HEI demonstrates active involvement in partnerships and relationships with a wide range of stakeholders

MUAS and SCE have actively built a broad, diverse network of partnerships locally, nationally & internationally.

The SCE was a founder of “4Entrepreneurship” – an entrepreneurship think-tank comprised of a network of the four Munich universities: MUAS, the Technical University of Munich, the Ludwig-Maximilians University, and the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich.

The institutionalisation of the network “4Entrepreneurship” in 2013 enabled students and staff to move more freely between the 4 Universities for entrepreneurship education activities and start-up support. New programmes have been developed by SCE as the main founding partner, including:

  • GESS, the Global Summer School, is built around yearly changing topics of global relevance. (2013: The Future of Education; 2014: Waste)
  • SEA, (Social Entrepreneurship Akademie) is a major internationally oriented initiative, which works to broaden the network of organisations that anchor social entrepreneurship within society. 
  • In summer 2012, MUAS signed an agreement with the FOM private university of applied sciences for economics and management in Munich to offer students free access to SCE´s entrepreneurship activities. Several local, private HEIs have now joined this network.
  • SCE´s director sits on 3 key advisory boards: Munich Network, GründerRegio M (Munich´s start-up support network,) and Förderkreis Gründungs-Forschung e. V. (start-up research association) 
  • The SCE is a shareholder in the Munich business plan competition Evobis. Staff from SCE coach individual and team applicants during the competition´s different stages. This enables SCE staff to maintain contacts with the key players in the local entrepreneurship ecosystem.
  • Internationally, the SCE was an active partner in the Roundtable for Entrepreneurship Education (REE), initiated by Stanford University, and is co-chair of its European spin-out (EREE). 

SCE actively uses its Alumni to build links between past and present students

On start-up, SCE actively invested in developing new forms of communication. They hired a professional communication team to create a weekly news platform in both German and English.  A special newsletter tool was created to enable the sending of user-tailored newsletters to recipients. 

  • While studying at SCE, start-up teams are systematically involved in the work of the SCE communication team. Many start-up teams continue to use SCE after graduation from the SCE to communicate about their achievements. This provides additional role-models for students and future start-up teams. 
  • SCE-affiliated alumni regularly act as judges and jury members in business idea and innovation competitions.
  • A growing number of SCE alumni mentor current SCE start-ups. 
  • Alumni relationships have proven to be successful in linking current research and education activities with industry and business needs.

Lessons learned

  • Institutionalising HEI to HEI partnerships helps to increase the mobility of students and staff supporting entrepreneurship promotion and knowledge exchange activities. 
  • Sharing good practice is a useful learning exercise for all HEI partners.
  • Nurturing alumni relationships requires dedicated resources. 
  • There is huge interest in social entrepreneurship, both from potential knowledge exchange partners as well as from would-be-entrepreneurs. Having an umbrella topic that raises such a high level of interest facilitates intra-HEI collaboration and strategic partnership building. 

The HEI has strong links with incubators, science parks and other external initiatives, creating opportunities for dynamic knowledge exchange

MUAS/SCE has made financial investment in incubators, internally and externally, both full ownership and partial participation. They invest in both high-tech and low-tech enterprises. They consider the most important factors in selecting incubator tenants as the level of personal commitment within the team and the level of innovation in the idea.

  • MUAS has strong links with incubators and science parks through the “4Entrepreneurship” network.
  • MUAS runs its own incubator facilities with 700 square meters of office space for around 30 start-up teams per year in the Start-Up-League, with another 50-60 teams per year working in the incubator.
  • MUAS has an open-office space for visiting teams from abroad, which promotes dynamic knowledge exchange. It operates for visiting teams coming to Munich and supports a consistent virtual connection. Recently start-up teams from Aalborg University in Denmark, Huddersfield in the UK, and St Petersburg State Polytechnic University have spent three weeks at SCE. MUAS start-up teams have also been temporary tenants in partner incubators.
  • MUAS and the SCE are very active in best practice exchange within Germany´s well-developed university entrepreneurship community. New practices are evaluated in-house with the aim of sharing experiences and lessons-learned with other higher education institutions. 
  • MUAS is one of the leading HEIs in the EXIST network. EXIST represents around 120 HEIs from all over Germany. Concrete efforts are underway to start a staff exchange programme.

Lessons learned

Within this short experience with the new detached incubation facility, the following insights have also been gained:

  • Internationalisation through the exchange of start-up teams is an effective strategy. The 3-week exchange period limits the commercial impact of the experience; 2-3 months might be more effective in terms of network building and ideation. 
  • It is of key importance that each start-up team has a designated coach, who follows the process and acts as the key contact person. Organising the coach for visiting teams requires close contacts with the home institution. The quality of the coach’s teaching, speed and their willingness and ability to vary their approach is critical in delivering real value and underpinning sustainability. This is a more difficult role than many expect.

The HEI provides opportunities for staff and students to take part in entrepreneurial activities with business/the external environment

MUAS/SCE has developed many programmes and alliances to support engagement of students with staff working on live entrepreneurial opportunities alongside successful business partners. This enables extensive engagement with the external environment and a realistic integration of theory with practice.

  • A new course format (REAL) was developed in 2011/12, building a triangle between entrepreneurship education, knowledge exchange and start-up support.  REAL (Responsibility, Entrepreneurship, Action- and Leadership- based) projects involve teams of five to six students in a one-semester long project. Each REAL project course has multiple teams working on different aspects or solutions of a central innovation challenge. The course is team-taught by a professor who is responsible for the subject/technical course matters, and an “entrepreneurship expert”, who belongs to the SCE or an external partner organisation. 
  • Each REAL project course has a regional partner who organises the innovation challenge and engages the students into the company environment. Key partners to date include T-Systems, Schaeffler, Steelcase, EOS and Siemens. Some of the ideas developed in REAL project courses have been further developed in SCE ideation seminars and have resulted in new start-up ideas. 
  • The ‘4Entrepreneurship’ network reduces cross-institutional barriers. This enables students, and staff to access programmes and resources across 4 Munich Universities and provides incentives for students and staff to take part in entrepreneurial activities at all the institutions in the network 

Incentives and rewards for professors, researchers, and students to engage in knowledge exchange activities.

  • Professors are attracted to SCE by its connection with leading foundations and associations, large (multi-national) and traditional small and medium-sized enterprises that form SCE’s strategic network.
  • Professors are encouraged to lead, and are acknowledged for, active idea scouting and concept testing. REAL projects are central to developing knowledge exchange activities.
  • In REAL professors and students work together to define the specific challenge. The cluster topic provides the basic motivation; e.g. one of the first REAL project courses, in the sustainability cluster on “Urban Farming” involved 4 faculties: mechanotronics, architecture, design, and business administration. Students developed ideas related to crop production, food processing, transportation and logistics. 
  • Anchoring REAL project courses to topics of global relevance (e.g. mobility, energy, space and technology) has proved a successful strategy for attracting external partners. As an outcome of the REAL initiative, a Munich-based research foundation commissioned a two-semester course in the cluster technology. 
  • Professors who share their research for entrepreneurial purposes with students, and/or act as their start-up mentors, can count this against their teaching load.
  • The REAL projects course format is highly sought after by students. Since its introduction in 2012, around 1800 students have participated in 39 REAL project courses. Currently around 380 students per semester take REAL project courses.
  • Extending REAL off campus: From winter semester 2102/2013 to 2013/2014, two interdisciplinary teams of students worked off campus, in a partner firm (HypoVereinsbank) on an innovation challenge, using agile project management and lean start-up.   The experiences enhanced the relationships between students, professors and external partners. The format is being further developed to focus on would-be-entrepreneurs who develop their business idea within an existing firm. 
  • MUAS is investing intensively in the development of e-learning tools to enhance blended learning. E-Learning material has been created to replace formal lectures, and the associated logistics constraints, with online courseware. This allows students to organise themselves around their project work, and access taught material to suit their schedule. 
  • More than 40 professional videos have been produced to date. This enhances SCE´s entrepreneurship promotion activities. They are designed into a common course using Google Course Builder
  • In 2013, a pilot project was started with the University of Augsburg to develop an online course on social entrepreneurship. The platform utilises HIIF’s research on ‘how to organise online company clinics’ and applies the insights to processes of independent and group learning in entrepreneurial situations. 
  • SCE actively promotes information exchange amongst the projects. A new platform has been developed to enhance the exchange of information between projects developed at the SCE. Projects can be searched for by using filters, and contact details are available for all project members. The online project tool is freely accessible at: www.sce.de/startseite.
  • In response to market demand, SCE has established a doctorate of business administration (DBA). Many industry and business partners approached MUAS and SCE requesting the establishment of a business administration programme doctorate. This is under development with universities in the UK. The first cohort of doctoral students started their 36-month programme partly based in Munich and partly at the partner university in the UK. In the near future, exchange activities are expected to include around 100 students and academic staff. 

Lessons learned

●  Tailored education programmes that meet the demand of industry and business partners, such as REAL project courses, can trigger partnership building with external partners and promote closer inter-faculty collaboration. 

●  Education programmes that raise external interests and financing can help overcome burdensome administrative requirements (e.g., timetables, ECTS requirements, etc.). Nevertheless, organizational requirements can be high, especially for the first few programmes. 

●  Anchoring courses to topics of global relevance can be very attractive for students, professors and external partners. 

●  Forms of blended learning and information exchange on past and ongoing projects can help to effectively manage time for project work. 

The HEI links research, education and industry (wider community) activities together to affect the whole knowledge ecosystem

MUAS and SCE are closely integrated into the Munich knowledge and entrepreneurship ecosystems, especially through the “4Entrepreneurship” network. The fundamental components of a Munich entrepreneurship ecosystem all exist, but the efforts and resources are fragmented. The focus on individual institutions reduces the impact of the investment. The efforts of SCE and MUAS have been developed through the following strategic activities: 

  • In 2010, the Social Entrepreneurship Akademie (SEA) was established as a joint initiative by the four university-based entrepreneurship centres in Munich as part of “4Entrepreneurship”.  SEA is used to stimulate entrepreneurial thinking across all university disciplines. SEA positions social impact as a strategic decision for organizations. 
  • Under the slogan ‘Education for societal change’ this network organisation educates social entrepreneurs or social change-makers. Founding members and partners include the four universities plus 10 strategic partners: the BMW Foundation, Herbert Quandt, Bonventure, Vodafone Foundation Germany, Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, HypoVereinbank, Telefonica, kfw-Foundation, Bertelsmann Foundation, Hans Sauer Foundation, Siemens Foundation, Unicredit Foundation. In 2013 SEA had more than 220,000 likes on Facebook and established over 15 international partnerships with similar initiatives. 
  • SCE builds a wider community and social capital by bringing strategically important events to Munich. E.g. “4Entrepreneurship” plans to host the “Global Venture Summit” in Munich in 2016.  This global outreach event brings together start-ups, innovators and top-investors from all over the world. 
  • The potential to systematically organise knowledge exchange and resource pooling was tested in 2013. FutureLAB of Architecture started a 3D house printing initiative with students from the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Huddersfield in the UK; Tokyo University and Chiba University, Japan; the Technical University of Munich and MUAS. After 60 hours of 3D printing, the first printed house was ready for around EUR 60,000. 

Lessons learned

Partnerships between powerful institutions with large networks need continuous development effort and on-going resources to maintain dynamism and innovation. The 3D-printing-cluster provided an opportunity for start-ups to connect to the top players from industry.

Contact

Professor Klaus Sailer
Director Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship and Professor for Entrepreneurship at the University of Applied Sciences Munich
Klaus.sailer@sce.de