New centre to give world-class entrepreneurs
24 April 2012
The entrepreneurship research and education at LUSEM now takes the step from being among the best in Sweden to competing in the international top league. This is thanks to an important donation from industrialist Sten K. Johnson that enabled the creation of the Entrepreneurship Centre that bears his name.
Sten K. Johnson, CEO and major shareholder of Midway Holding, is impressed by the achievements within research and education at Lund. “It feels very gratifying that I am now able to make a contribution to improving this activity and moving it forward. I am an entrepreneur myself and I know that entrepreneurship demands long-term perspectives so this is very important to me. I also enjoy giving something back to society when I have the opportunity”, says Sten K. Johnson.
S Sten K. Johnson obtained his own Business degree from Lund 40 years ago and has since then kept in touch with the academic world. He is also greatly interested in arts and culture and has supported the establishment of a violin professorship at the Malmö Academy of Music. “My opinion is that, generally, knowledge is of the utmost importance. From my student days I remember my legendary lecturer Eric Rhenman, who used to remind me that nothing is as practical as a good theory. Entrepreneurs also have much to gain from developing their knowledge”, says Sten K. Johnson. Courses in entrepreneurship at Lund University were established 10 years ago when Hans Landström was appointed to the newly established professorship in entrepreneurship at LUSEM. A few years later the entrepreneurship courses further evolved and a number of different programmes and courses were developed for different parts of the university.
World class programmes
The activity took a great leap forward in 2009 when the Swedish government appointed Lund’s programme, in competition with 13 other higher education institutions, as one of two ‘world-class programmes’ in entrepreneurship. “This meant we received a financial base to strengthen the programme even more and it also led the number of applicants to soar”, says Hans Landström. LUSEM has now established a unified centre for entrepreneurship where researchers and other staff can work together in common premises. Marie Löwegren is the director of the centre; she has participated in the creation of the entrepreneurship profile from the beginning. The work is now mainly directed at strengthening the three areas of collaboration, internationalisation and research. Marie Löwegren states that many companies participate with guest lecturers and mentors and establish internships for the students at the School. “But we would like to build more long-term relationships with the business sector and other actors outside of the academic world. We also want to give something back, for example by offering seminars and educations in our areas of expertise”, she says.
The internationalisation will be strengthened through close collaboration with a number of international universities as well as through an increased exchange of both teachers and students. “A first example is that this spring we are launching an entrepreneurship course in Tanzania at the University of Arusha. We have also had visitors from Japan where they are now starting to get interested in entrepreneurship courses”, says Marie Löwegren. In the research field, Frédéric Delmar, an internationally top ranked professor in entrepreneurship, has already been recruited to the new centre. LUSEM already has a higher intensity of research than many others working with entrepreneurship education, states Hans Landström. “But we want to get even better at this. Our vision is for all lecturers to have a good balance between research and teaching”, he says. The strengthening of these three areas also improves educational quality. Today, courses in entrepreneurship have become compulsory in several programmes at Lund University. The optional courses are also becoming more popular and the ambition is for entrepreneurship to be present as a subject within all faculties. Currently, around 700 students per year are participating in one of the 16 entrepreneurship courses that are offered – extending from students of film to physicists and business students.
Popular Master's programmes
Since 2007, an international Master’s programme has been offered that has become the most sought after entrepreneurship programme and one of the Master’s programmes with the most applicants in Sweden. On this programme the School cooperates with LU Innovation, the university’s unit for technology transfer. The unit highlights suitable research results that students can work with and develop commercially within their project work. Students may also choose to work on their own projects. An especially pedagogical approach, based on mentoring and reflection, has proved to work very well, according to Marie Löwegren. “The students are given the opportunity to do something and then reflect on their actions. But there are different goals for different programmes. Sometimes the goal is for a company to be started during the programme and sometimes the goal is for the students to be stimulated into thinking of alternative career paths, including the option of setting up their own business.”
Leading in Europe
How many new entrepreneurs the programmes and courses produce is difficult to measure. This is partly because many first decide to obtain some professional experience before starting their own companies, generally around the age of 35–40. But among the students who participated in the Master’s programme in Entrepreneurship 2007/2008 around 70% had started their own company within a year. The ambition for the Sten K. Johnson Centre for Entrepreneurship is high. “We aim to be a leader in Europe when it comes to communication and development of knowledge with the purpose of strengthening entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs”, says Marie Löwegren.