Assessing an entrepreneurial university in Belarus: A choice between green-field vs superstructures

Inspired by the success of leading countries in the development of the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems around universities, Belarusian entrepreneurial community have initiated a debate about the main foundations of entrepreneurial higher education organisations. It is a passionate debate among different stakeholders focused on two alternatives: first, the establishment of a new model of an independent entrepreneurial university; and second, the development of a superstructure in one of the universities within the higher education system. In this regard, we demonstrate how to establish and configure a new higher education institution capitalizing on formal and informal institutional factors.

Radzivon Marozau
Belarusian Economic Research and Outreach Center (BEROC)

Maribel Guerrero
Northumbria University, Universidad del Desarollo

Denis Aleinikov
Aleinikov & Partners

Vladimir Apanasovich
Institute of IT and Business Administration

Background and Objectives
In contrast to developed Western countries, in transition economies like Belarus, higher education organisations are not focused on becoming key actors in cutting-edge innovation and in creating entrepreneurship capital. Especially, universities tend to educate jobseekers, qualified workers, as well as to adapt, redevelop/disseminate existing knowledge and technologies. Nowadays, the Belarusian policy makers agree that universities need to transform to respond to global challenges. Unfortunately, some developing countries continue imitating university practices (internal determinants) but ignoring the diagnosis of their institutional configuration (external determinants) (Marozau & Guerrero, 2016). In this regard, the Ministry of Education of Belarus has initiated the pilot project on implementation of "University 3.0” model aimed at the development of research, entrepreneurial innovation infrastructure of universities, the generation/commercialisation of innovative products and intellectual activities.

Previous studies have shown that the core institutional obstacles during the transformation process of universities are associated with the underdevelopment of public/private financial mechanisms for supporting universities’ innovations (Tchalakov et al., 2010); the inefficiency of technology transfer channels (Etzkowitz et al., 2000); the weak intellectual property systems (Aidis et al., 2008); the imperfect incentives for universities (Marozau & Guerrero, 2016); the unfavourable attitudes towards entrepreneurship within universities (Grudzinsky, 2005); and the existence of institutional voids such as opportunistic behaviours or corruption promoted by subsided university-industry collaborations (Guerrero & Urbano, 2019). In Belarus – an efficiency-driven economy – the main institutional determinants have been the education system, the financial market, and the efficiency of the labour market (WEF, 2018). However, the feasibility in the transformation towards entrepreneurial universities is not self-evident right now. Anecdotal evidence shows that the Belarus State’s efforts to transform universities may be futile given the unpreparedness of the economy and institutions.

Two institutional regimes have influenced the institutional configuration of Belarus: the Hi-Tech Park, and the China-Belarus industrial park Great Stone (i.e. these are quite comparable to innovation-driven economies in terms of the level of productivity, technologies and entrepreneurial culture). Nowadays, the passionate debate among different stakeholders focused on two alternatives: First, the establishment of an independent entrepreneurial university by adopting the model of Hi-Tech Park. Second, the development of a superstructure in one of the universities within the higher education system. We posit that the creation of the entrepreneurial university from scratch at Hi-tech Park has several advantages but also several challenges at the institutional level that will take a long time. It considers that the main objective of the establishment of the entrepreneurial university is to provide world-class entrepreneurial education to fuel rapidly growing high-tech sectors.