SME's and the value of learning in an entrepreneurial education ecosystem

Jacob Thomsen
UCL University College Denmark

Birgitte Wraae
UCL University College Denmark

Entrepreneurial education ecosystems (EEE) is a structured approach that is constructed and capitalizes on the demand for student learning, problem solving and for SME´s to gain valuable learnings and positive outputs in cooperation with the other actors in the ecosystem (Brush, 2014; Ratten, 2017; Carvalho et al., 2010).
This study focuses on SME’s, digitalization and learning in relation to other actors in the EEE. It is based on a regional project for three municipalities, 220 SMEs, teachers and students from higher education institutions on the island Funen in Denmark.
The overall objective of the study is to learn and identify the core effectuational (Sarasvathy, 2001) generating elements for actors and in the EEE.

The research context is based on an overall understanding of the EEE by Wraae & Thomsen, (2018; 2019). The identified actors in the EEE are related by dialogical relations (Jones and Matlay, 2011), that emphasizes the interdependency between two actors in the EEE. In this relationship experiential learning is created when creating knowledge (Kolb and Kolb, 2005).
Linking the EEE with creation of knowledge, the EEE can be considered as a dynamic ecosystem where, when engaging the stakeholders, learning takes places: “learning occurs through equilibration of the dialectic processes of assimilating new experiences into existing concepts and accommodating existing concepts to new experience (Kolb and Kolb, 2005).

Based on our understanding of the EEE four different project stakeholders have been identified, entrepreneurs, educators, project consultants and students.
The chosen methodology is a qualitative case study research design that includes both interviews of 32 entrepreneurs, 3 project consultants, 9 educators and then later in the project 20 students, and of observations of the entrepreneurs made by the project consultants in the project (Yin, 2014; Saunders, 2012). Each actor is interviewed in relation to their perceivement of value, perceived role understanding, identity knowledge, skills and learning based on the participation in the course facilitated by staff from the municipality or educators from the educational institution.
The last interviews are to take place spring 2020.

Results and impact
The expected findings are hoped to add new insight into how each actor learns in an EEE. The catalytic effect can either be defined as economical, social or cultural value for society. As such, this study will provide insight and knowledge to the understanding effect of the entire EEE.
From a national perspective we expect to identify valuable learnings and models for others to be able to (re-)structure regional business development for SME´s.
From an educator perspective we expect a development, cognitive and knowledge impact regarding “ordinary” teaching and student skills to match the supply and demand for future work forces. Furthermore, we expect the educators to gain new pedagogical didactic perspectives for curriculum design and programs.

Conclusion, learning opportunities and future potential
Findings from this study are to gain valuable knowledge and insights into a new canvas for developing and structuring strong collaborations in future EEE.
In the later phases of the research project students are via their participation hoped to gain the understanding of the different aspect of intra- and entrepreneurship. They are expected to become aware of that the entrepreneurial mind-set is useful from both perspectives and can be considered a generic skill (Chang and Rieple, 2013).