The community of academics in support of academic entrepreneurship at the University of Bologna

How to engage individual researchers and have them actively involved in fostering academic entrepreneurship at your university

Rosa Grimaldi
University of Bologna

Francesca Farnararo
University of Bologna

Maria Cecilia Flores
University of Bologna

Background and Objectives
The University of Bologna - the oldest home of free teaching founded in 1088– is a multi-secular generalist public Italian university, the second largest in the country with 85,244 students, 2,781 faculty and 2,975 staff. According to the 2018 QS World University Ranking, it is among the first 200 universities in the world.

in 2016 a new deal started, with a brand-new governance, with a new strategic plan, determined at creating conditions supporting academic entrepreneurship, e.g. valorization of research results in different forms (university-industry relations, patents, licenses, spin-off) and student entrepreneurship.

The University of Bologna at that time was already active in favoring technology transfer to the market place in its different forms. Nevertheless, the potential for a better and greater impact of third mission activities, generally speaking, was at place. One of the main barriers envisaged was the lack of a shared culture, coupled with the absence of ad-hoc supporting mechanisms.

Raising the awareness of entrepreneurship as a desirable and feasible path of action was of utmost importance for engaging university faculty members in entrepreneurship.
By creating AlmaEClub (the Entrepreneurship Club of the Alma Mater Studiorum, University of Bologna), the university invested in creating the conditions for the entrepreneurial culture to flourish among its affiliated faculty members with a twofold objective: Have professors:
a) more incline toward seeking commercial valorization of their know how;
b) more helpful in acting as sponsors/advocates, favoring the diffusion of entrepreneurial culture, both within their departments of affiliation and among their students.

There was consensus that the main objective of improving the impact from commercializing of research results could not be pursued without creating a culture in support of entrepreneurship. AlmaEClub started with this important mission. It is an open community that welcomes all of the research faculty members (professors, research fellows, PhD Students) from the 33 different departments and the 11 Schools, creating a unique interdisciplinary and heterogenous context where people can share ideas.