Making students aware of entrepreneurship at an early stage, generating enthusiasm about entrepreneurial action, and showing students that starting a business is an attractive career path - that is the goal of the University of Stuttgart and the Vector Foundation (Stuttgart). Since the beginning of the project “Let US start!” three years ago, the initiators have been able to reach more than 1,000 students in numerous formats. The project is now permanently integrated into the teaching activities of the newly established Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Science (ENI) at the University of Stuttgart, and will be continued across the faculties.
Start-ups are a driver of innovation and secure the economic prospects of the local area. With the beginning of “Let US start!” three years ago, the University of Stuttgart embarked upon a forward-looking project to better acquaint students with the methods and the mindset that an entrepreneur needs. This project, which is funded by the Vector Foundation, shows students that starting a business is an attractive career option. “Let US start!” teaches entrepreneurial key skills using different teaching and event formats. In a six-week intensive course, student teams, for example, will be accompanied professionally from the start-up idea and prototyping to the pitch. At the end of the course, the teams present their ideas to a jury of experts at the Demo Night. In the three-year pilot phase, “Let US start!” was accompanied by the program “Tech Talents”, which is also funded by the Vector Foundation. The program’s courses were offered by UnternehmerTUM, Europe’s leading center for innovation and start-ups at the Technical University of Munich. With its many years of experience in STEM education and start-up support, the program “Tech Talents” supported the development of the start-up community in the Stuttgart region. In addition, the development of the courses offered in Stuttgart was accompanied professionally by the start-up hub “Pioniergeist”.
Outstanding spin-offs in Baden-Wuerttemberg
“We are enthusiastic about the positive feedback from the students and the importance that the topic now has for them. ‘Let US start!’ is a key part of the start-up ecosystem in the Stuttgart region. It is aimed specifically at students who have not yet considered starting a business. In the ‘Let US start!’ formats, they learn about business start-ups as a career option,” says Dr. Helmut Schelling, Founder of Vector Informatik GmbH as well as Founder of the Vector Foundation and Member of the Board of Trustees.
“In cooperation with the Vector Foundation and other partners, the University of Stuttgart wants to ensure that cutting-edge research also leads to more outstanding spin-offs in Baden-Wuerttemberg,” says Prof. Wolfram Ressel, Rector of the University of Stuttgart. According to him, “Let US start!” represents a new start-up culture at the University of Stuttgart that is reflected in new co-working and makerspace opportunities, the further development of start-up support, and new transregional collaborations such as the “Gründermotor Initiative”. “We are glad that we have given new impetus to the topic. We see entrepreneurship as an important basis for providing our talent, along with their ideas, further opportunities to put their research and knowledge into practice,” says Ressel.
Implemented in the curriculum on a permanent basis
After a successful pilot phase, all courses and activities initiated via “Let US start!” will be continued by the University of Stuttgart, where they have been fully integrated into the teaching activities of the newly established Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Science (https://www.eni.uni-stuttgart.de/), headed by Prof. Alexander Brem, and are thus implemented structurally and organizationally on a permanent basis. “Even though the project has been extremely successful so far, the true added value will become even more visible in the future. Overall, a new culture was fostered and integrated, and a strategic course was set for scaling and enlarging the program,” says project manager Dr. Eric Heintze from the University of Stuttgart.
The Vector Foundation
The Vector Foundation was established in 2011 as a corporate foundation. The foundation owns 60% of the shares of the Vector Informatik GmbH, and finances its activities from the dividend it receives from this shareholding. On average, the Vector Foundation supports 150 projects with about EUR 8 million per year. Since 2011, it has invested more than EUR 50 million into its non-profit work. The Vector Foundation is active in the areas of research, education, and social commitment in Baden-Wuerttemberg. Its funding priorities are in engineering research projects, in STEM education as well as in combating homelessness and youth unemployment.