CDIO-based Entrepreneurship Courses as Drivers of Innovation in Industrial Segments

CDIO-based Entrepreneurship Courses as Drivers of Innovation in Industrial Segments

Charlotte Norrman and Olof Hjelm

In this paper, we describe and discuss how we in two CDIO-based entrepreneurship courses at Linköping university, Sweden, encourage students to identify and solve challenges and problems in two adjacent industrial sectors, i.e. cleantech and agricultural/green industries. Both courses are offered to a broad range of engineering programs. The industrial sectors chosen give the students a delimited context incorporating direction, business culture and technology, that forms a base for the students to build their entrepreneurship cases on. Working with real challenges give real-life experience of how models and frameworks can be utilized and rightly executed, it increases project relevance, student motivation and learning.

One challenge to overcome is the fact that many students lack earlier work-life experience and a thorough knowledge of the industrial sectors in focus. Experiences from earlier courses told us that this made it difficult for students on their own to identify and develop realistic, yet challenging and new business ideas. To solve this, we tested to facilitate the interaction with industry, and through this help the students to detect “real problems”. Furthermore, it was anticipated that interaction with external actors, such as established businesses, organizations and tentative customers, help students to adjust and fine-tune needs and demands to create business ideas that could have a real potential. As an extra benefit, this approach could enable academia to act as co-creator in industrial problem solving - i.e. to make academic knowledge come into practical use in society.

To achieve this, traditional teaching approaches were complemented with action oriented seminars and workshops. Early in the course we arranged an inspirational seminar with experienced entrepreneurs in each course. Our guests made short presentations describing challenges they saw in their line of business. Based on the challenges given, groups of 4-5 students jointly started to formulate business ideas that aimed at solving selected problems. The invited industry representatives served as coaches in these discussions and helped the students in the initial formulation of a business idea. The ideas were then further developed and refined throughout the courses, using a combination of lectures and follow up in interactive workshops, in which the students applied and utilized the presented theories and tools. At the end of the courses we arranged a joint exhibition - a trade fair. At this event, the student displayed their final business ideas using simple mock-ups and posters. Short pitch presentations were also prepared and refined throughout the event. To add relevance external guests in case of industry representatives, business coaches and local press were invited. The exhibition was arranged as a competition, using fake money staking, and an externally recruited board of “dragons”. A special prize was given to the winners.

Based on our own experiences and student feedback we discuss how this approach forced the students out of their comfort zone, challenged their creativity and enhanced their learning.

Proceedings of the 13th International CDIO Conference in Calgary, Canada, June 18-22 2017

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