Summer school: Switching students on to entrepreneurship

Winter or summer, Climate-KIC’s summer school programme has the same rationale. It’s about nurturing the commercial mindset, says deputy director of education Eleanor Saunders. 

Take a cohort of motivated participants. Immerse them in an intensive programme of climate innovation spanning five weeks at three European locations. Watch as they learn the language of business.

That was the route map for Climate- KIC’s November 2012 summer school, staged in winter for the first time and taking in Delft in the Netherlands, Budapest in Hungary, and Wroclaw, Poland. Snowball throwing was on the agenda. But otherwise the event had all the hallmarks of the established summer school.

In Delft, where its focus was on the scientific context for climate change, the programme included visits to the Sand Engine and inputs from Deltares and TU Delft.

In Hungary, where science gave way to business, delegates met inspirational young entrepreneurs and visited organisations facing climate challenges, including Organica and Budapest Zoo.

In Wroclaw they worked up their business plans before presenting to a jury that included a Polish venture capitalist and experts from within the Climate-KIC community.

In developing their business ideas, summer school students are looking for constructive feedback. ‘They’re not pitching for funds,’ explains Eleanor Saunders, Climate-KIC’s deputy director of education. ‘It’s about the learning experience, the contact with experts, the peer-to-peer interaction, and the exposure to cultures.’

Increased outreach

In shifting its focus to people and places beyond Climate-KIC’s core centres, this latest summer school reflects a new commitment to increased outreach activity across all three of Europe’s KICs.

‘Because Climate-KIC already has regional communities or networks in countries like Poland and Hungary,’ says Eleanor Saunders, ‘it makes sense to build these up first. And we know they’re very keen to engage with us. In Hungary, for example, our recruitment has been particularly strong.’

By reaching out to new cultures, the summer school offers participants a more rewarding experience. ‘This time we had a lot more professionals from eastern Europe,’ says Eleanor. ‘It made for a different kind of group. We want to build on that, broadening our recruitment and enriching our talent pool.’

Although not everyone who signs up for the school also commits to a Climate-KIC Masters, Eleanor is in no doubt about the value of the summer school to all. ‘It’s a unique learning experience. It switches our science students on to entrepreneurship and vice versa, so they can go out into the world and make a difference.’