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Creating Businesses in a Lab

Three examples from AACSB's Innovations That Inspire challenge highlight new centers and labs that are encouraging the entrepreneurial spirits of their students and local businesses.

In 2018, we shared several examples of business schools promoting entrepreneurship. New business creation is part of the promise of business education, and business schools are continuing to stoke the entrepreneurial spirits of their learners, while also supporting local startups in their early stages. The following are three examples of centers and labs at business schools with the goal of enabling new business creation, either through partnering with existing startups or working with students to create their own startups.

Startup Lab

NEOMA Business School (France)

The Startup Lab at NEOMA Business School aims to develop their students, with the goal of helping to produce successful startups. Students come to the lab with business concepts and receive a wide range of adapted support from the lab. This includes an incubation program with the typical mentoring, coaching, and fundraising guidance offered by many labs.

Some of the differentiating factors of the Startup Lab, however, include an embedded focus on the importance of coding. The lab offers a “coding school,” where entrepreneurs learn how a familiarity with coding can improve their businesses’ success, given the wide variety of ways in which coding knowledge can be applied.

The lab has also established partnerships with schools across borders. Students are paired with peers in other locations to test market concepts while also learning about various world cultures.

THI Center of Entrepreneurship

Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt, THI Business School (Germany)

Entrepreneurs and startups are the driving force behind today's economy. Many students would like to create a business but do not have the necessary expertise. To close this gap between will and skill, THI Business School’s Center of Entrepreneurship (CoE) bundles all activities of the various courses of study and promotes a culture that encourages founding activities throughout the university and the region.

The CoE is a cross-functional center that encourages students, graduates, and academics in the development of entrepreneurial thinking and acting. The CoE accompanies young entrepreneurs through the first phases with practical advice and through its network. The center promotes founders to external accelerators and connects them with industry.

Launched in 2017, the CoE consists of a small central team to organize and further develop the concept of local entrepreneurship consultants across business and engineering disciplines at THI. This structure ensures organizational learning, best practices, and cross-functional collaboration and knowledge transfer.

Students who complete the obligatory and voluntary courses containing entrepreneurship content receive a basic or an advanced certificate. The CoE is also tightly linked with medium and global companies in the region, startup accelerators as well as existing students’ initiatives.

Carlson Analytics Lab

University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management (United States)

The Carlson Analytics Lab pairs startup companies, as well as larger companies and government institutions, with graduate students skilled in data visualization, machine learning, predictive analytics, and data science methods to transform big data into high-impact outcomes. Representatives from business come to the Carlson Analytics Lab with business analytics problems, and student teams are tasked with providing solutions—from engineering new ways to harness data to in-depth analyses, and from machine learning to optimization.

The lab solicits projects from area companies, culminating in a “pitch” event that introduces potential clients to students, who learn about the businesses’ needs. Teams are then assigned to projects and begin pre-work before launching into the semesterlong capstone. In all, nearly two dozen projects are completed per year.

Working collaboratively, student teams and clients further define project requirements, with an emphasis on how the data analytics work will support business goals. Teams document requirements, approach, timelines, and expected deliverables for client approval. Each team uses responsible research methods to deliver analyses, reports, code, models, live dashboards, and knowledge transfer documentation, ensuring that client needs are met and solutions are implemented.

At the conclusion of the project, students earn course credit, and their work is graded by faculty, staff, and clients, ensuring rigor and professionalism in the work. Ultimately, the client is left with a solution that they can implement that will benefit their business.

About Innovations That Inspire

Since its launch in 2016, Innovations That Inspire has collected 840 innovative practices across a variety of themes and areas within business education. For each challenge year, a selection of innovations is featured at the International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM). Further, current members of AACSB’s Business Education Alliance have the ability to browse through all innovations using DataDirect. AACSB continuously highlights submitted examples in publications, events, presentations, and in other media as examples of business schools doing innovative things that push the boundaries of business education.

Elliot DavisElliot Davis is manager of research at AACSB International, located in the Tampa, Florida, office.