Jyväskylä Startup Factory Ltd

Reija Häkkinen
University of Jyväskylä

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Mari Suoranta
University of Jyväskylä

Päivi Patja
University of Jyväskylä

This study discusses the entrepreneurship -related cooperation between the University of Jyväskylä (JYU), Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences (JAMK), Jyväskylä Educational Consortium (JEC Gradia), and the City of Jyväskylä. According to McCoshan et al. (2010), all students regardless of their level of education, should have an access to entrepreneurship studies. This case description illustrates how entrepreneurial studies can create multiple forms of value for students irrespective of their educational level. One of the challenges in previous years has been how to get students familiar with suitable forms of entrepreneurship education. The collaboration between JYU, JAMK and JEC Gradia started in 2015 with the Yrittäjyys yhdistää -project (Entrepreneurship Connects -project). Due to the success of the project, the collaboration between the parties was decided to be continued. Together with the City of Jyväskylä the parties founded in 2017 a limited company, Jyväskylän Yritystehdas (Jyväskylä Startup Factory) in order to broaden and develop the incubator- and preincubator -related activities in Central Finland in addition to continuing joint entrepreneurship courses and events. The ambitious aim of the collaboration is, first of all, to challenge the students to develop their own skills and capabilities in order to meet the needs of the 21st century working life. Another important aim is to create new startups that would serve both local as well as international markets.

Wadee and Padyachee (2017) mention that universities don’t always have best possible resources to take advantage of, and grow the entrepreneurial skills and capabilities of their students. Very beneficial are collaborational bonds with different organizations and business experts outside the university context. Important for students’ success and development are also networking and contacts with different entrepreneurial parties and resources. Mentoring and role model of expert entrepreneurs gives potential student entrepreneurs valuable learning possibilities in opportunity creation. This kind of interaction might also be positive for developing common values in entrepreneurial ecosystems. (Björklund & Krueger 2016). In Jyväskylä these challenges are approached with the help of the in-house company (Jyväskylä Startup Factory) that in itself is an essential part of the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem in the Jyväskylä region. The in-house company focuses on strengthening the innovation and entrepreneurial competencies of students and startups. We seek to look beyond conventional boundaries and collect the benefits of “clashing” the thought processes of students of differing educational backgrounds. As younger, vocational school students act rapidly, university students might delve in their thoughts, thus even preventing the creation of a possible startup.

Results and impact
According to Curth et al. (2015) the students who participated in entrepreneurial education related programs in Sweden had more concrete career plans, their work-related ambitions were higher, interest towards studies were higher, and more students continued their studies in the university compared to the control group. Similar results were found in USA (National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, NFETE), Slovenia and Denmark. Some other positive results are for example teacher commitment, partner participation, and a greater amount of startups. Entrepreneurship education has been found to modify the attitudes, beliefs, and abilities of the participants regarding the creation or recognition of opportunities. Abilities to take advantage of resources related to entrepreneurial activities may also grow (Morris, Shirokova & Tsukanova 2017). According to a report of the European Commission (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice 2016, 84) students in contemporary world need to understand the applicable role of entrepreneurship, for example, as it enables individuals and societies to solve global challenges. As Ortiz-Medina et al. (2016) have noticed, building ecosystems starts from certain units and can be spread wider with a dedicated work as ”nested effect”. Below are some examples of functions that we will elaborate more in the final paper:
Pre-incubators and incubators
Both for students and other startup teams (for example researchers). During studies, students can start to grow their ideas into businesses– or start businesses while earning study credits at the same time. After graduation, students can apply for a common pre-incubator or incubator to strengthen the idea, team, business plan, products and funding. Outcomes: Study credits, entrepreneurial skills, potential entrepreneurs, solid and tested business ideas and products/services, committed teams, competitive startups, funding.

R&D microfunding
Microfunding for JYU, JAMK and JEC Gradia students as well as staff that have good ideas, yet no resources to proceed nor test their ideas. Applicants pitch to a jury, who grants microfunding for prototyping, marketing, surveys etc, and also coaches and controls the results.

Coffee accelator, entrepreneurial brunch and get-togethers
Hot topics presented by cool professionals – breakfast gatherings for entrepreneurs, teachers and students, tackling IPR-, HR-, sales-, lean-, management- etc. issues. Outcomes: networking, sharing knowledge, co-creation.

Jyväskylä Startup Factory Ltd was founded in order to develop the surrounding entrepreneurial ecosystem and to find best ways to work in collaboration in the future. Several researchers, such as for example Duval-Couetil (2013) see that in entrepreneurial education, especially important is to have a united view of the goals among the entrepreneurial educators as they all have different educational-, work- and interest related background. This is one of our main concerns regarding the future. Another one is to clarify the entrepreneurship and career building paths in all educational organizations and connect them with suitable paths in Jyväskylä Startup Factory.