Social network tools and procedures for developing entrepreneurial skills in PhD programmes (ProdPhD)


It is acknowledged that entrepreneurship is nowadays a powerful driver of economic growth and job creation. Accordingly, the European Commission's Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan, adopted in 2013, states that EU economies need more entrepreneurs with higher levels of technical education to be more competitive and innovative. Besides, it identifies education as one of the three pillars for facilitating entrepreneurship, and recognises that universities must become more effective in supporting entrepreneurial activity. In fact, outside business schools and economic faculties, universities at large need to increase their offering of entrepreneurship education, as it may benefit not only business students, but also engineers, biological scientists, physical scientists, etc. In fact, in the context of this proposal, entrepreneurship is seen as a transversal competence that educators can use in any discipline to foster the entrepreneurial mind-sets and skills of their students. This proposal is also motivated by the conviction that the methodologies to stimulate future entrepreneurs can benefit from the new social networking and collaborative work technologies that have been already proved to be successful in other fields.

The main objective of the prodPhD project is to implement innovative social network-based methodologies for teaching and learning entrepreneurship in PhD programmes. The multidisciplinary teaching and learning methodologies to be developed will allow introducing entrepreneurship education in any PhD programme of a higher education institution, providing students with the knowledge, skills and motivation to engage in entrepreneurial activities. The methodology will be conceived to develop experiential knowledge, involving academics, entrepreneurship experts and mentors in its development and implementation, by taking advantage of the use of customized collaborative social network tools. Besides, the exchange of experience, competences and approaches facilitated by social networking will allow crowdsourcing new ideas, improving training methodologies and stimulating entrepreneurial skills of academics.

In particular, the prodPhD project will deliver and demonstrate through different pilot actions a social network-based training methodology, which will include the necessary teaching guidelines and specific “learning by doing” materials for entrepreneurship training, as well as the required prodPhD Online Training Environment (POTE), integrating customized collaborative work and social network solutions. The outcome of the prodPhD project will be openly offered to the higher education community.

The prodPhD project is conceived with an RRI approach. It means ensuring that the process is collaborative and multi-actor with all societal stakeholders working together at all stages in order to align the outcomes to the values, needs and expectations of the society. For this purpose, the prodPhD project is built on the collaboration with four running ERASMUS+ and MSCA-ITN projects, involving twenty higher education institutions from nine different EU countries, and more than twenty-five companies and research centres. Besides, four running H2020 running projects and sixteen other European associations and organizations will also collaborate with the project by becoming members of the Expert Advisory Board of prodPhD. This collaboration will be fundamental for the specific needs and requirements analysis and for the development and assessment of the demonstration actions to which all the collaborating institutions will be invited to participate.

Educators have a key role in making entrepreneurial learning possible. Outside the traditional domain of business schools and economic faculties, the lack of educators with the necessary skills, knowledge and methods to teach entrepreneurship effectively is one of the main bottlenecks that hinder a widespread development of entrepreneurship education in European universities. The prodPhD project will deliver a methodology and the corresponding guidelines to support the design and development of training modules. Those training modules will be based on the ‘training by doing’ concept, and will contribute to develop a broad package of entrepreneurship-related skills in the PhD students, including business knowledge, financial literacy, leadership and teamwork, initiative, problem solving, critical thinking, decision-making, ability to persuade, etc.

Nevertheless, what is especially remarkable in this project is the implication of business school’s experts and entrepreneurs in the application of those training modules, which will be facilitated and implemented thanks to the use of social networking tools. These tools will be customized to fulfil the requirements of the training materials, and that will enable the different players to share experiences that will be matched to exchange competences and approaches.

ProdPhD is a research project funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.


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