Rainer Harms and Erwin Hofman are teachers involved in the project of the sixth module of IBA: Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Rainer has studied Economics in Munster, including getting his PhD. He is one of the first Germans with a dedicated PhD in entrepreneurship. He has much experience as a teacher: he has taught in 12 different schools over 8 different countries! Erwin has studied at the UT. He holds a master in Industrial Engineering Management and he has a PhD from the faculty of Engineering Technology. After his studies, he has gone to New York University and North-eastern University as visiting scholar, after which he has returned to the UT.
Interact with the real world
The philosophy of the module was similar to a ‘lean start up idea’. “The students should not write a fully developed business plan before the beginning, nor should they just go out and do it.” The students had to think of a hypothesis about what might be a problem and what could be a solution, then they had to test it in the real world actively. “Do not sit at the desk all day, but go out and interact with possible costumers.” This way, in a contained time and with the safety net of the teachers, the students experienced what their future work environment could look like. “The students were given the experience, so that they are prepared to make better career choices later.
“The students were asked to dive into unknown worlds”. The students could choose their own project area in the domain of innovation and entrepreneurship. The ‘star groups’ (option offered for excellent students) searched their own company or target group for which they had to develop a business plan. The ‘non-star’ groups were given a list of companies and problems that they could choose. The worlds the students came in contact with varied extremely, from disabled children who wanted to do sports, to party organising, to the learning habits of secondary school children, and to surgeons who perform minimal invasive heart surgery. To make the connection between theory and practice even stronger, the theory was given just-in-time. That means the content of the lectures and the assignments of the project lined up with each other; when the students needed to write a problem description, this was handled in the lecture of that same week.
Next to the teachers of the UT, many of the project teams also had business coaches. These coaches were very involved in the project and the students could ask them questions. The business coaches also visited the market, where the students presented their final work. The coaches were very enthusiastic; they said that the students had come up with some new and valuable ideas. “They all stressed how much they liked it and how usable the outcomes were”. Not only the business coaches were very enthusiastic; the students evaluated the module very positive as well. “The fact that they could work on real assignments, visit the companies, and make sure that they understood the question properly was very motivating”.
Continue after the module
The UT is known for its many spin-off businesses, and due to this module, the number might grow even more! The students of the star groups received 500 Euros to continue with their product ideas and maybe launch them. The students do not have to continue, because it is outside the course, but most of the groups are really excited about it. The teachers have offered to support these groups beyond the course. “It is fun to work with those who are really enthusiastic”. This module does not only interact with the real world; it also gives the students an opportunity to make the step into the real world.