At the end of 2011, the Institute for Entrepreneurship, Technology Management and Innovation (EnTechnon) was established at KIT and Prof. Dr. Orestis Terzidis was appointed as chairholder. The goal was and is to expand research and teaching in the field of entrepreneurship. A well-founded entrepreneurship theory is also a central component in the project “KIT Founders Forge.” The teachings at EnTechnon are based on a four-stage concept:
- Awareness for the topic through informational events for the faculties,
- introduction to central concepts and facts,
- action-based learning and simulation, as well as
- support in the application.
Similar to training for becoming a pilot, entrepreneurship training is about preparing participants to take responsibility. Aspiring pilots learn to steer a complex technical system; entrepreneurs act in a complex system with social, economic, and technical aspects.
In the first step of awareness, we provide students with a first insight into the topic through information events in order to make them aware that entrepreneurship is a possible perspective for shaping one’s life. Often, additional short stimulus presentations, which reference our academic events, are integrated into other teaching formats. In this step, there are no exams because the events do not contribute to the regular university courses.
Both of the next steps, however, are part of the degree courses at KIT. Every interested student should have the possibility to get to know entrepreneurship as part of their regular studies. Depending on their major, this is done through recognized ECTS services as part of modules or through seminars for key qualifications.
First, the goal is to convey a well-founded theoretical and conceptual understanding. The following themes are central aspects:
- identification of opportunities
- drafting a vision
- developing new services and products
- iterative validation through users
- building up business models
- entrepreneurial leadership
- growth and internationalization
- finance planning and acquisition of investors
Building on this basic understanding, the step of simulation offers formats that can be compared to the flight simulator in pilot training. The point is to create situations cognitively and emotionally that are similar to reality but still represent a safe space where you can gain experience acting as an entrepreneur. The focus lies on the principle of action-based learning. In practice, we work with methods such as design thinking – the development and validation of business ideas through a team – as well as drafting of business models on the basis of real KIT patents and technologies.
Active accompaniment of startups is the fourth and highest step of our teaching pyramid. We offer this at the Startup Catalyst (upCAT), a specially developed accelerator program at KIT. Here, teams that actually want to found or have already done so are accompanied for three months with targeted professional and pedagogical support. To follow up on the metaphor: Here, the pilot enters a real airplane and completes his knowledge through interaction with experienced mentors and trainers.