Supporting entrepreneurship and innovation

The report, titled ‘Supporting Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Higher Education in the Netherlands’, was commissioned by the OECD and published by HEInnovate (a think tank set up by the OECD and European Commission) to analyse the impact of entrepreneurship in education at Dutch higher education institutions. It looks at why these institutions are doing so well in this regard, singling out the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool van Amsterdam) on a number of occasions.

The positive impact of government policy in the Netherlands

So why are Dutch higher education institutions succeeding when it comes to entrepreneurship and innovation? One of the key factors is a government policy introduced in 2010 by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Known as the Valorisation Programme (Valorisatieprogramma [in Dutch]), its aim was to bring parties from industry and education together, creating more economic and social value directly in the classroom, while stimulating entrepreneurship – be it from students innovating in real-world situations with businesses in the region, or helping students to shape business ideas for their own startups before even graduating. For example, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences offers students the possibility to write their bachelor graduation thesis on a research question related to their startup.

The presentation of the OECD’s report comes at an important time. The Valorisation Programme is due to complete its eight-year cycle at the end of the 2018, however, one of the report’s key recommendations was that this be continued. Speaking at the report’s launch, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, acknowledged the importance of entrepreneurship in education. “Entrepreneurship and innovation are essential components for higher education in the Netherlands and for society as a whole. As such, it is essential to examine the effect of entrepreneurship education on students and startups. I shall include this on the agenda of the Global Entrepreneurship Week in November and ensure there is sufficient budget earmarked for this.”

The approach embraced by the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

The OECD's report notes that the “Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) exemplifies the common approach of explicitly including valorisation activities as a substantial part of the job profiles of professors and senior lecturers/researchers. Since March 2016, new profiles are in place for professors, education/research officers, lecturers, and senior lecturers/researchers to reflect the AUAS’ mission and the evolving educational practice typical of a modern knowledge institution.”

Also highlighted were the valorisation opportunities being developed by the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI), part of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. Here it notes that “Innovation and entrepreneurship are integral parts of the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Entrepreneurial learning includes virtual presentations of collections, students’ use of micro-blogging platforms such as Pinterest and Tumblr, six-month work placements and internships with fabric companies, and use of 3D printing and other manufacturing technologies and methodologies. AMFI aims to create a skill and knowledge resource that helps build relationships with the fashion and manufacturing industry.”

The report also paid tribute to Amsterdam’s Knowledge Mile, considered to be the street with the highest density of students in Amsterdam, with approximately 60,000 students in an area that stretches for about two kilometres, from Nieuwmarkt to Amstel Station. Its main initiator is the Amsterdam Creative Industries Network, one of the Centres of Expertise of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Collaboration between Amsterdam’s education organisations also boosts innovation

The ‘Supporting Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Higher Education in the Netherlands’ report was compiled following visits to all participating Dutch higher education organisations in 2016. Alongside the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, these also included the University of Amsterdam and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. As such, there was particular praise for their strategic approach to cooperation, including initiatives such as the Amsterdam Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Exchange Amsterdam. It was also noted that crucially, while universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands have been traditionally closely connected to the business world, the Valorisation Programme has brought new attention and support to their research activities, kick starting important dialogues that will continue to foster innovation and entrepreneurship within education.