Stories#039 Rainer's entrepreneurship

#039 Rainer's entrepreneurship

The story of Michaels space mission is a story of Rainer's entrepreneurship

Both born and raised in Germany, both passionate about science. The conversation between Assistant Professor Michael Schlund (ITC) and Rainer Harms, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship picks up steam quite naturally. Think of it as a compact lecture on entrepreneurship by an enthusiastic teacher to his interested colleague. And this kind of peer exchange is exactly what Rainer is committed to within UT.

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Monday 12 July 2021


Michael: ‘Tell me, when did you know that you belong to the world of science?’

Rainer: ‘As a student, I noticed that I like to delve deeper into a subject if it really interests me. You can claim all sorts of things, but what is really going on? I enjoy figuring that out and giving an empirical explanation, as well as organising my thoughts as I write and conveying my ideas to others. This is the basis for my scientific career.’

Michael: ‘When did UT come into the picture?’

Rainer: ‘In Germany it is customary to transfer to another university after your PhD, as you know. You break out of your comfort zone and look for a new place – which is quite a good idea. For me that became the University of Klagenfurt in Austria. I had a great time there, but missed the technological perspective on business administration. I am convinced that business operations benefit from technical solutions and innovations. That, plus the unique socio-technical profile of UT, made it a logical choice.’

Michael: ‘Why do you think that combination is so important?’

Rainer: ‘The fact that pursuit of profit maximisation and the creation of social value are seen as opposites is, in my view, a major business misconception. After all, every company that pursues financial gain also has a social component: employees, customers, cooperation partners, its place in society. No solid organisation can chase euros without hesitation. Conversely, every social enterprise needs money to survive. My take on this: companies are out to create value. And that value can be financial and – at the same time – social in nature.’

Michael: ‘If I’m honest, when I think of entrepreneurship I primarily associate is with doing business and making money.’

Rainer: ‘Many business studies still focus on ‘educating’ entrepreneurs, but that is not the UT approach. We want to equip our students with an entrepreneurial mindset: a certain way of thinking about and dealing with problems and challenges. This includes things such as a creative attitude, an open mind, a certain curiosity and an eye for innovation – and guts. Such a mindset comes in handy everywhere, definitely not only in business.’

Michael: ‘Don't you secretly hope that your students will start the next or Uber?’

Rainer: ‘That would be great, but usually the founders of those successful start-ups don’t come straight out of college. They often have already gained a few years of work experience, built up a network and got to know the ecosystem well. No, you know what gives me the most satisfaction? When students give a presentation and I see their eyes light up as they talk about their journey. Not only the end result counts. The development students go through is just as important.’

Michael: ‘Nicely said! I also notice this in my UTQ (University Teaching Qualfication, ed.) trajectory. The biggest task is to formulate my challenge. What do I want to work on? How do I find out which steps I need to take? That is tough, but above all very insightful. Still, I’m curious – and I’m sure I’m not the only one: how do I become a successful entrepreneur?’

Rainer: ‘Good that you perceive your UTQ that way. It is exactly that experience. And how do you achieve success as an entrepreneur? There’s no quick fix, but a few important components are essential: starting with a good idea and perseverance. Many people give up before they have expressed their idea. That’s really unfortunate! Talk to people about your plans and take advantage of their views. Both the positive and the less enthusiastic responses are helpful. You will also be amazed at how many people will want to help you, for example by introducing you to someone you would never have found yourself. Also recommended for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit: take a look at the site of Novel-T, an initiative of UT and the Saxion University of Applied Sciences, among others. They offer a platform here where people share their entrepreneurial story and advice. And as soon as they can, they will organise all kinds of activities on campus. Very fun and interesting.’

Michael: ‘I’ll check it out, thanks! Something else: I saw that you have been working at UT for 12,5 years. What do you appreciate most about working at UT?’

Rainer: ‘I think it’s great that there are more opportunities than you can possibly take advantage of. And I particularly enjoy that the BMS faculty has become increasingly popular in recent years and seeks to connect with other faculties. For example, we have been asked to substantiate the entrepreneurship component in the new Nanotechnology master’s degree, and one of our colleagues is involved in the new Robotics master. Thanks to Shaping2030, there’s a n increased exchange ideas and of people around campus. Very valuable indeed.’

Michael: ‘What role do you play in this yourself?’

Rainer: ‘UT is an organisation with multiple centers, which resemble bee hives in their activity. All of these hives buzz with ideas and enthusiasm. Which is great. And it would be even better if all that energy could flow freely. For example, there are quite a few people who want to encourage and facilitate entrepreneurship among students, but they do not know how to reach each other. That is why I am developing a proposal for a center for entrepreneurship or impact hub with a few colleagues. This should become a place where people work on new plans together and reinforce existing structures and ideas. Plus, I also think this interview series is a nice way to cross organisational boundaries.’

Michael: ‘Certainly, this is a nice introduction - thank you for your story. We should have a beer soon, I think we could talk for hours!’


is an assistant professor at the Department of Natural Resources of the Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (ITC). His research focuses on monitoring land cover and biophysical parameters of vegetation, such as biomass, forest height and agricultural crops, using algorithms to extract information from a broad range of remote sensing data. Michael obtained his PhD from the University of Jena and did a post-doc at the European Space Agency. He then worked at the University of Göttingen, before joining UT.

Rainer Harms (1974)

studied economics in Münster, where he subsequently obtained his doctorate in business administration. He completed his postdoc in business administration at the University of Klagenfurt (Austria). As a visiting researcher he worked at the universities of Minnesota and Moscow and as a visiting professor he taught students in Vienna, Barcelona, Saint Petersburg and Melbourne. Enschede came into the picture in 2008. Harms is an associate professor of Entrepreneurship at the BMS Faculty.