3 - Production and commercialisation processes

3.5 - Supporting the provision of services for entrepreneurs


Many of the most advanced and best performing regions in terms of innovation and commercialisation of research results have access to consulting services provided by universities. These are aimed at helping teachers, researchers, students and / or employers to maximise the potential of knowledge through the creation, management and consolidation of spinoffs and start-ups. With this aim in mind, the importance of entrepreneurship should be emphasised as a means to commercialising research results, whilst specific support should be provided to decision-making processes. For these services to be truly effective, the active involvement of the business community is required.


Consulting and Advice. Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETHS), in Switzerland, provides consultancy services for new businesses during their first two years of operation. The service is provided by researchers and includes support and advice on a wide range of issues, from product evaluation to definition of the company structure. In terms of infrastructure, companies are allowed to use equipment belonging to the University (Technopark Zürich) during the consultancy period. Likewise, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - MIT (USA) and Imperial College (United Kingdom) offer similar services during the first 18 months of life of a business, covering elements such as the design of a complete and effective business plan, finding possible sources of finance, financial control, etc.

Inspiration File Hubs: the Imperial College in London offers researchers access to entrepreneurial organisations and tools which are aimed at encouraging creativity and generating new ideas. Examples include: the Ideas Club, a website featuring wide-ranging information related to business creation, and the Entrepreneurial Journey, an online tool which allows entrepreneurs to simulate, plan and implement their ideas so as to minimise potential mistakes.

Access to contacts: in areas such as finance, taxation, legal, consulting services, etc. An example of this is the Sloan Business Club, which was founded in 2010 at MIT and provides its members with a wide network of contacts, mentors and sponsors.

Training: ranging from small modular courses to a school specifically aimed at entrepreneurs, such as the MIT Sloan Entrepreneurship & Innovation MBA Program and the Imperial College Business School. Within MIT there is also the MIT Enterprise Forum, which offers a series of entrepreneurship training programmes through a worldwide network of 28 nodes.

Entrepreneurial networks: these include the virtual support networks promoted by ETH, Cambridge, MIT and Imperial College. They encourage contact and interaction between entrepreneurs with the aim of encouraging collaboration projects (MIT Enterprise Forum, MIT Seminars, MIT Clubs, etc.).

Entrepreneurial competitions: one of the world's best known competitions of its kind is the "MIT $100k Program". It has helped create numerous companies, generating more than 2,500 jobs and receiving $770 million in venture capital funding. Other interesting initiatives, run by the MIT, include the IDEAS competition (Innovation, Development, Enterprise, Action and Service), which assesses business ideas which help marginalised communities, and the XPrize Lab, which involves students and teachers in competitions to find innovative solutions in the fields of energy, the environment and life sciences. These activities are all part of the many initiatives organised by MIT’s Deshpande Center of the American institution.

Support for social entrepreneurship and activities in developing countries: of special significance in this respect is MIT’s Legatum Center for development. The centre bases its activities on the belief that economic progress and good governance in underdeveloped countries can be encouraged by business initiative and innovation. The programme focuses on the distribution of aid and grants to business projects aimed at the developing countries and it works in conjunction with a well-known international conference based on the establishing of businesses in these countries.

The Oxford University El Said Business School: the key to its success lies in offering free information (business plans, creation of Unique Selling Points, etc.) for interested companies or researchers. It develops mentoring activities for young entrepreneurs and competitions for private investment as well as projects such as Oxford Business X, Youth Business Development, etc. Other specific examples of its activities include: Silicon Valley comes to Oxford; the development of “business shares its experience” round table debates; talks by ex alumni, etc. It is a major entrepreneurial catalyst for both the industrial sector and the University itself. 

Implementation process

Agents required for implementation

This recommendation could be of use to a company which wishes to contract the services of a university or by a group of companies to optimise their resources. An entrepreneurship contest could be implemented by a single company, although it should ideally be a large one. Alternatively it could be organised by a group of companies in partnership with a University.

In the same way each option could be implemented directly by the University so that these types of services could be run in a more systematic way with greater involvement of the industrial sector as a whole.

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  1. http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/Pages/Default.aspx - Interview Mrs. Ringe, Manager Centre for Innovation and Enterprise de Saïd Business School.
  2. http://legatum.mit.edu/ - MIT Legatum Center for Development and Entrepeneurship.
  3. http://web.mit.edu/deshpandecenter/xprizelab/about.html- XPrize Lab.
  4. http://web.mit.edu/mitpsc/resources/ideas-competition/index.html IDEAS Competition
  5. http://web.mit.edu/sebc/- Sloan Business Club.
  6. http://www.ethz.ch/index_EN - ETH Zürich.
  7. http://www.mit100k.org/ - MIT 100k.
  8. http://www.mitef.org/s/1314/main.aspx?gid=5&pgid=61 - MIT Enterprise Forum.
  9. http://www.vpf.ethz.ch/transfer/ETH_Zurich_spin-offs.pdf - ETH Zürich Report 2009.
  10. http://www.vpf.ethz.ch/transfer/firmgruend/info/index_EN - ETH Zü-rich Transfer.
  11. http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/business-school/research/innovationandentrepreneurship - Imperial College Business School.
  12. http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/entrepreneurship - Imperial College Entrepreneurship Hub.