HE-BCI workshop: International Enterprise Educators conference 2022
On Thursday 8 September 2022, a HESA representative attended the International Enterprise Educators (IEEC) annual UK conference, co-hosted by Swansea University.
The three-day event was an opportunity to learn about student entrepreneurship and entrepreneurialism education. It highlighted the importance of giving students the skills to become more creative, opportunity oriented, proactive and innovative. This can often, but not exclusively, lead to the creation of ventures and organisations seen in the form of start-ups and spin-outs. The diversity of the attendees demonstrated the collaborative partnerships between higher education institutions, businesses and support organisations that help to embed innovative skills development into the higher education (HE) curriculum.
The event was an invaluable chance to directly engage with colleagues familiar with the HE-BCI data collection. This included knowledge exchange practitioners, academics, and knowledge transfer experts from across a variety of disciplines. We hosted a 50-minute interactive workshop where colleagues could provide their feedback on the six priority concepts outlined as requiring development to enhance the quality of knowledge exchange data.
Overall, delegates felt that the highlighted concepts addressed their main concerns with the current HE-BCI data collection. They particularly expressed the need for greater emphasis on staff and students as agents of knowledge exchange within the record, citing the current limitation of the inclusion of students as only agents of commercialisation. Furthermore, they related to the notion of non-academic staff as being significant contributors to knowledge exchange. They provided examples of non-academic and non-teaching staff as being essential to student entrepreneurialism support programmes. They stated their work has direct impact and value, so believe it should be in the data set.
Spin-off and start-up representation
Additionally, attendees expressed a strong desire for an improved representation of spin-offs and start-ups. They reported a mistrust amongst HE providers regarding the figures reported by their peers in the HE-BCI data collection. They suggested that loose definitions and misalignment of terminology supporting the completion of Table 4 data could lead to providers adopting a variety of interpretations. Through group discussions delegates identified variations in their own practices of recording and reporting commercialisation data. There was a consensus that improved guidance that provided strong definitions of spin-outs and start-ups and clearly defined the relationship between the provider and organisation to warrant their return in the collection. Some delegates suggested the need for a stated level of accountability in the data and made references to a potential audit of company and intellectual property (IP) data supplied by providers. Others felt that the implication of audit may provide fairness and consistency in data reporting across the sector.
The impact and potential of graduate data
Finally, delegates highlighted the significant challenges they face in obtaining commercial data from their graduates post-exit from the provider. There was a clear disparity between departments. This varied between knowledge transfer offices (KTOs) to alumni teams. However, there was an acknowledgement that obtaining data from those graduates now departed from the provider was a labour-intensive task with little incentive to the individuals. One provider shared its practice of using financial incentives such as voucher schemes to encourage graduates to provide commercial data such as turnover and employee numbers. However, delegates recognised that this incentive came at a cost to the provider and those with limited resources – including time – may not be able to offer such incentives. Therefore, attendees suggested that the review was as an opportunity to highlight the benefit of providing data to UK funding councils via the HE-BCI data collection. They suggested greater emphasis on cultural and social impacts should feature in the record. Demonstrating overall value to society may be beneficial when engaging with graduates, as it provides evidence for how spin-outs and start-ups can contribute to the wider ecosystem.
- Students and staff are key contributors and actors in entrepreneurialism education.
- The HE-BCI data model needs to account for staff – both academic and non-academic, and students as agents of knowledge exchange (KE). Students should not be only graduates and should include registered students.
- HE-BCI guidance should be provide clear definitions of terms and concepts, and terminology should align with the respective industries and ecosystems.
- Improvements in the HE-BCI data collection can enhance the demonstration of a provider’s social and cultural impacts. This can help incentivise the return of data by graduates and spin-outs back to the provider.