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3 reasons why STEM students need to learn about entrepreneurship

By Stephanie L

Updated April 26, 2021 Updated April 26, 2021

Sponsored by Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology

2020 was a year of widespread change around the world, and in the wake of those developments a new generation of businesses, products and services are being established. However, it’s not just business school graduates who are leading the way.

The skills, characteristics and competencies needed to launch a business go hand in hand with those that are developed in STEM education – including:

  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Problem solving and problem identification
  • Flexibility
  • Managing risk, failure and uncertainty
  • Decision-making
  • Willingness to experiment
  • Being open-minded

As well as being ideally suited for the world of entrepreneurship, STEM graduates are also able to think both creatively and logically, and to be risk-takers but also good decision-makers – essential traits in the world of business.

You might not have a business idea in mind yet, but there’s still lots to be gained from learning about entrepreneurship as part of your STEM degree. Here are three reasons why.

It brings value to current research

Natalia Katorova is a Materials Science and Engineering PhD student at Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology.

Before pursuing her PhD, Natalia had very little experience in entrepreneurship, but she says her time at Skoltech has completely changed her way of thinking. Natalia credits the university’s innovation initiatives like the FabLab for bringing value to her current research.

“It helped me understand the entrepreneurial cycle – from the initial idea to creation and implementation. I also realised that my technical background and engineering skills do matter!

“It really enhanced my motivation to learn and to work hard,” she said.

During her studies, Natalia, along with her colleague, Polina, launched their start-up, K-plus. The pioneering start-up aims to develop and market a new generation of potassium-ion batteries which can be used for stationary UPS devices, solar panels and wind power stations.

It’s vital if you want to launch a start up or business

This may be obvious, but it remains a valid point.

It’s important to have a vision, but it’s important to also have the practical know-how and data-driven evidence to back it up – as Assistant Professor Zeljko Tekic at Skoltech’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation explains.

“For STEM students, entrepreneurship is of specific importance and relevance as it helps them not just to be able to solve hard tech problems once they are clearly defined, but to be able to recognise and identify emerging needs and wants, and then, proactively participate in satisfying them by creating and renewing products and enterprises.

“In this way, STEM students with entrepreneurial skills are uniquely positioned to move their ideas to impact, to see how tech they love and create changes people’s lives to better and creates value,” Professor Tekic adds.

Dmitry Kulish, Professor of Practice at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation echoes Professor Tekic’s sentiments: “A scientist may realise that they want to commercialise their invention. So instead of going to a start up or a corporation for help, they will have all the skills to commercialise their invention themselves, and this is why they will need to have a strong understanding of entrepreneurship.” 

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) in Moscow, Russia, is a bustling hub built upon the foundations of academic excellence in science, technology and engineering which instills a vision for innovation and entrepreneurship success in education, research and commercialisation.

Students are encouraged to take part in a range of innovation and entrepreneurship workshops, programmes and courses. Such opportunities offer a unique opportunity for students to develop specific entrepreneurial knowledge and skills, such as IP management, planning and resource management, as well as social, cultural and ethical awareness. 

Providing genuine context and demonstrations of how STEM knowledge and skills can be used in within the realms of entrepreneurship can have a positive effect on students’ learning, perspectives, engagement and attainment.

“It provides you with the strategic thinking skills to generate new ideas for your research, or to find an opportunity to launch a start up,” said Natalia. “Having an understanding of entrepreneurship and experience of idea development and implementation enhances your chances of success.”

It can open up doors to an array of other career opportunities too

STEM graduates aren’t solely destined for STEM careers. With the introduction of entrepreneurship in STEM education, it’s an opportunity for many graduates to forge careers in non-traditional industries – as Professor Tekic explains.

“STEM graduates with some startup experience or entrepreneurial flavour in their degrees can pursue a variety of career options and many interesting and non-standard development pathways.

“Some of our recent graduates are committed full-time to building their own companies, some have joined innovation and product development departments at large existing companies in Russia and across the world, while others have started careers in VC funds.”

It seems that the career possibilities are endless for those with a STEM background and soft skills.

“They will be a perfect candidate for the modern job market,” says Professor Kulish.

“Not only will they be able to present knowledge and skills to do the technical work, but they can also manage a team, build connections with partners and more.”

Professor Tekic agrees: “Entrepreneurship is vital not only for those who want to start new companies, but also for employees already working in enterprises of any size, in public administration or non-governmental sector.”

It is becoming increasingly apparent that in today’s world, there is a need as well as a desire for STEM and entrepreneurship to work together.

Recognising the influence STEM and entrepreneurship can have when used together ensures universities produce individuals who are confident in unleashing their creative potential while distinguishing logical connections and understanding what it means to embrace collaboration and take calculated risks.

Lead image credit: Timur Sabirov for Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology

This article was originally published in January 2021 . It was last updated in April 2021

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Written by

As the Head of Sponsored Content for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com (until September 2021), Stephanie created and published a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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