Hardly any area of today’s life hasn’t been affected by the COVID-19 consequences. The higher education system is not an exception, and it faces challenges that go far beyond its organizational issues.
Educational institutions are forced to adapt to the current situation in the shortest possible time, rethinking their methodologies and spending significant funds for accelerated digitalization. The pandemic has disrupted global interaction in the field of education and science since international traveling is hampered, student exchange and academic mobility programs are suspended, and research cooperation in many fields is put on hold.
Though put in the cross-hairs, universities have the power to nurture post-COVID-19 business by linking their inner reservoirs to the current (and future) needs of the society. Sure, their primary focus is to ensure a high quality of education and research in the new reality, but this goal shouldn’t shut off their contribution to achieving broader goals, including support for entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship Role in Transforming the Future
Why entrepreneurship? The job-killing pandemic has ruined the lives of millions while making those businesses that survive seek new ways to adapt their routines to existing challenges. In this erratic situation, entrepreneurial skills are essential for generating new ideas, approaches, goods, and services to fill the gaps. Such competences will allow for not only accommodating new needs of the society but also creating new jobs and ensuring better social integration. Moreover, forthcoming transformations have every chance to result in building a safer, more balanced, and even environment-friendlier world.
It is also true that along with much devastation, COVID-19 has unleashed multiple opportunities by shaping new circumstances and corresponding demand. And entrepreneurs are trying to avail of the moment, providing both speed and flexibility to keep up with it. They are ready to take risks, develop, and adapt while expanding the window of opportunity for the rest of the world. And it would be only fair if the rest of the world would assist entrepreneurship in the search of novel business models and policies.
University Entrepreneurship Opportunities
To some extent, scientists are rather similar to businessmen. Both categories have a propensity to experimenting, exploring new opportunities, and migrating between neighboring areas. They adjust to facts quickly and show much head for innovation.
Furthermore, over the past decades, an increasing number of universities have provided comprehensive support to faculty and students on their way to the commercialization of their inventions and ideas. Many higher-educational institutions focus specifically on supporting technology transfer. They promote entrepreneurship, establish external relationships, and foster managerial skills to many corporations, government authorities, and non-commercial organizations. Thus, they have talents, facilities, policies, knowledge, and communication channels for businesses to draw lavishly.
Universities’ Response to the Pandemic
As the crisis evolved, we have been observing many universities around the globe cooperating with various institutions to respond to the challenge. Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center is one of the most widely accepted examples of universities’ contributions to the world’s awareness of the pandemic.
However, there are many more illustrations of how universities can help in refashioning the existing reality, from influencing state bodies to boosting new businesses. Imperial College’s infectious disease modeling served to change the UK and US governments’ attitude to the coronavirus spread. In Colombia, engineers, entrepreneurs, and physicians used open-source specs from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to launch the production of cheaper breathing machines. And a student from Druid Hills High School founded a food delivery service for healthcare workers.
While many governments and international organizations failed to agree on joint actions against COVID-19, the global university community has shown a much higher capacity for cooperation, employing its internal reserves and external connections. Though much of these efforts are centered around developing a vaccine or speeding up the production of personal protection equipment, university entrepreneurship potential is by a good deal wider than that.
What Universities Can Do to Promote Entrepreneurial Fightback the Coronavirus
Universities are sure to continue pumping their knowledge, volunteers, and funds into developing vaccines and tests to halter the pandemic. Their researchers in the fields of epidemiology, bioengineering, health care, genetics, and infectious diseases will be engaged in multiple projects, both commercial and non-profit ones. However, there will be future-oriented business areas for other representatives of the academic community.
- Engineers will redesign transportation systems, workplaces, and public areas to better resist epidemic spreading.
- Psychologists will help adapt to social distancing and self-isolation while fixing our minds and souls that have suffered from multiple pandemic-related shocks.
- Historians will write helpful books about the historical experience of recovering after pandemics.
- Specialists in Data Science will provide new approaches to risk management, consulting, econometric analysis, healthcare, politics, and other fields.
- Humanities scholars will assist in understanding and embracing the new reality by exploring the changes from various points of view.
- Experts in the fields of sociology and political science will work on restoring trust between different social groups, employers and employees, governmental authorities, and the public.
- Professionals in ethics will advise businesses and governments on ethical issues associated with privacy in the context of people tracking.
- Economists will find new ways to repair the economy and invent more flexible business models.
Universities’ contributions to rebooting economic activity are not limited to just educating and training, though the quality of educational and research processes has to remain at a high level, despite the pandemic-induced difficulties. But the institutions need to provide scalable solutions and adjust their entrepreneurship training to the latest demands. Finding ways for faster research-to-practice transition, shifting focus to social and environmental entrepreneurship, and offering easier access to intellectual property or research facilities will support both start-ups and existing businesses.
Some universities have already started moving towards this goal. MIT’s Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program adapts to the post-COVID-19 recovery stage. The University of Oxford launches a project to propel entrepreneurial solutions to the problems caused by the pandemic. And the Johns Hopkins Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design arranges hackathons to tackle coronavirus-associated issues.
It is noteworthy that another similar event held a month earlier and joined by about 19,000 participants from 175 countries was organized with the help of venture-capital firm Slow Ventures and in partnership with the WHO. This collaboration reflects the main idea behind the novel approach to university entrepreneurship – the educational institutions, governments, charity funds, and non-commercial organizations should work together to assist entrepreneurs on their way to reshaping economies. If local and national authorities will eagerly engage in the process, we have good chances to build a more resilient society, which would be the best outcome the world could get from the pandemic.
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