The use of HEInnovate at Vilnius University for action planning

The use of HEInnovate at Vilnius University for action planning

In recent years, Vilnius University (https://www.vu.lt/en) has joined the Arqus European University Alliance (https://www.arqus-alliance.eu/), which aims to stimulate an entrepreneurial mindset and creativity, reinforce regional engagement, and build on complementary strengths and cross-sectoral collaborations. To help with action planning for the University and at a later stage for other Arqus Alliance universities as well, ultimately with the aim to arrive at the development of a joint Arqus consortium plan, HEInnovate has been selected as facilitation tool.

The HEInnovate self-assessment helped Vilnius University identify strengths and weaknesses within the organisation regarding entrepreneurial skills and creative mindset development. The self-assessment completion and subsequent workshop resulted in the identification of key institutional strengths including a range of activities addressing internationalisation as well as knowledge exchange and collaboration. There is overall positive agreement that the institution explicitly supports its staff and students' international mobility and that the international dimension is reflected in the HEI's approach to research. The institution is actively involved in building and sustaining relationships with internal and external partners in research, teaching, entrepreneurship, and other third mission activities.

Measuring impact was identified as the main weakness, and there is room from improvement looking at some aspects of organisational capacity as well. Looking at the statements of the self-assessment, there is little positive agreement that entrepreneurship is a major part of the strategy or that there is a commitment to the entrepreneurial agenda at a high level. Similarly, greater effort is needed to grow investments in staff development and establish a more robust system of incentives and rewards for those who actively support the institution’s entrepreneurial mission.

Additionally, the institution should focus on preparing and supporting entrepreneurs by offering greater opportunities to partake in internal and external interdisciplinary initiatives, broaden the IP support structure, and focus on the younger generation of researchers and staff, who are more inclined to collaborate and take advantage of emerging opportunities.

As the institution is currently undergoing the process of a five-year strategy development, an objective for greater inclusion of the concept of entrepreneurship as well as the measurement of impact has become apparent. Therefore, these two dimensions were chosen for further action plan development. As such, the main objectives of both action plans include:

The development of a joint definition of entrepreneurship
Enabling/activating existing structures to coordinate/integrate entrepreneurial activities across VU
To develop/enable a motivational system to support bottom-up activities
Commitment of VU community to engage with social partners/ industries/companies and entrepreneurial graduates

These objectives can be achieved by developing bottom-up governance structures and an ecosystem to support innovation. Greater communication internally and externally, as well as training sessions and interdisciplinary conferences, would help increase knowledge exchange. The University, through the Arqus Alliance, has a group of entrepreneurship ambassadors, which provides further opportunities for enhanced visibility and communication on the importance of the topics identified.

The University already has a host of assets available on which to build, including  a vibrant Science and Innovation department, a TechHub (https://www.techhub.vu.lt/, a Bio technology Business Incubator (https://www.vu.lt/en/business/innovations-and-research/entrepreneurship-university/biotechnology-business-incubator), a Science and Technology Park (https://ssmtp.lt/en/), as well as a broad community of scientists, administrators, students, and alumni. There is a need to do a stock taking exercise of all the relevant initiatives and opportunities and the results should be made available in an easily accessible database.

In addition to these actions that were identified during the HEInnovate exercise, there is a need to continue the process and have a greater discussion on how to define ambitions and use available assets for achieving the goals set by the University.