Project results

While achieving full success with the planned activities, the project exceeded the initially expected results through several auxiliary activities further fostering the concept of innovation management and business-academia collaboration:

  1. Pre-test of the pilot course in SULSIT, Bulgaria. A training has been held using the pilot course materials and methodology, with a group of SULSIT students and professionals from different areas from Bulgaria. The aim and result of the pre-test were to make a preliminary check of the potential interest for the developed innovative approach for real business problem solving. For most of the participants this was their first touch to innovation management concepts and the practical learning-while-doing method of studies. They confirmed that the methodology is mostly applicable in their respective fields, while being an advanced and almost revolutionary method to assess and look for solutions to a certain business case.

  2. Additional student practice with technological company Trelleborg-Bulgaria based on the APInno methodology. KISMC, the Bulgarian project partner, in cooperation with SULSIT, Bulgaria, has organized an Innovation Management student practice together with Trelleborg Sealing Solutions Bulgaria, a local branch of a leading Swedish company. Upon the request of Trelleborg students with engineering background have been selected. Following the steps of the APInno methodology the students worked on a three business cases provided by Trelleborg, and the team presented viable business models at the end.

  3. Contribution to the academic and professional development of students who participated in the pilot courses in SULSIT, Bulgaria, and Middlesex University, UK. Three students (MSc and PhD) from the partner universities – SULSIT, Bulgaria, and Middlesex University, UK, have stepped on the topic of the innovation management, and on the APInno achievements in particular, to successfully work on their graduation research. A First Class Honours, BA Business Management and MSc Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship graduate from Middlesex University is currently a PhD student. Her thesis is on to identifying the desire for experiential learning in developing innovation behaviour in innovation management amongst university students. A MSc student in Software Engineering used the results and his impressions from the participation in the APInno pilot training in SULSIT to prepare his graduation master thesis in Innovation Management and IT tools supporting the process oriented to the IT sector. Another MSc student was inspired by APInno methodology to develop his diploma paper in the Software Engineering field.

The APInno project aimed to modernize the current HEIs educational approach to face up to the current and future challenges. It successfully integrated entrepreneurship and innovation activities in the established curriculum as a horizontal element in different fields of study (Computer Science, Software Engineering, Engineering, Business, etc.) and as a subject in its own right (innovation management skills). It helped to transform entrepreneurship education from being an extra-curricular ‘add-on’ to an integral part of the curriculum. The greater use of experiential learning and a new coach/mentor role for teachers helps students to become more independent and to take the initiative in the future. The additional involvement of managers from real business being students' clients has put them in a low-risk real business environment with real boundaries, constraints and expectations as it is in the real world.

In this sense the project has acted as a pilot initiative in testing a new form of delivering innovation education, with the goal to disseminate resulting good practices widely, and to encourage take up of the tested methods by larger number of HEIs. The project furthermore promoted a learner-centered provision of transversal skills and competences, and raised awareness of the opportunities that the area of Innovation Management creates for HEIs and industry. APInno acted as a vehicle for change, generating prototypes, creating business models based on what really matters to the target population - and what would motivate it to accept and adopt the solution and model for business-university collaboration.

The novelty was enhanced by the collaboration and exchange of knowledge and skills in four-fold manner: managers from industry – students – university professors – researchers and experts. Working across the boundaries of research, business and education requires in-depth scientific knowledge, entrepreneurial skills, creative and innovative attitudes and intensive interaction between stakeholders to disseminate and exploit knowledge generated to its best effect. APInno stimulated the development of interactive learning environments and strengthened the established knowledge-transfer infrastructure.

In most of the target countries of the project the IM is neither new nor the centre of attention of SMEs despite the widespread recognition of the need of creativity and innovation in industry. Yet it should be as SMEs in Europe want to remain competitive, and innovation is the only way for many of them to survive and function in a middle and long term. However, some businesses are not even aware that they should enhance their IM capabilities and only few are convinced that IM is a powerful lever to increase their competitiveness.

During the APInno project preparation were reviewed the existing analyses of entrepreneurship education in the European Union at tertiary level, the most recent data in publications from 2008 and 2012:

  • Entrepreneurship in higher education; especially within non-business studies (2008);
  • Entrepreneurship in higher education; especially in non-business studies (2008);
  • Effects and impact of entrepreneurship programmes in higher education (2012), which are publications of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture EACEA of the European Commission.

A new edition shows data on secondary education, but, in overall, in European Union there are almost no specific national strategies in support of our common goal to create innovative Union: Innovation Union is the European Union strategy to create an innovation-friendly environment that makes it easier for great ideas to be turned into products and services that will bring our economy growth and jobs. This was exactly the overall aim of the APInno project: to transfer, adapt and develop a holistic training approach (materials, course and teaching methodology) for Innovation management in universities aiming to support both academic institutions and European small and medium-sized enterprises to benefit from this knowledge and use it in a practical manner in their everyday activities.
In a sum the key innovative elements implemented in the project APInno were:

  • getting students out of their comfort zone and put them in a real business environment challenging them to "outsmart" and advise their client - the decision maker, i.e. the manager from the real business
  • getting students, managers, researchers and professors work together towards achieving a common market-oriented goal in a structured and systematic way - work with blended teams of students from business and non-business backgrounds/study fields to exchange knowledge and develop transversal skills and gain new ones - e.g., a more comprehensive understanding of innovation as a business process, developing new products and services, market realization, corporate entrepreneurship, etc. They were engaged in real business challenges and required to deliver value for SMEs.