Entrepreneurship and science-led innovation are crucial for economic growth and productivity. However, in many countries only few students consider entrepreneurship and STEM careers as options for their future. Higher education can both help to increase the number of potential founders and the success of their startups. Therefore, university teaching contributing to innovation and entrepreneurship is increasingly regarded as part of the university's "third mission”. However, the measures developed for this purpose are usually expensive and hardly scalable. In addition, the desired effects of entrepreneurship training are often not empirically substantiated, and it is not even clear whether "late" measures during tertiary education are better than earlier interventions. Therefore, there is a considerable need for cost-effective measures that can be used effectively and comprehensively, as well as the investigation of their effectiveness in the respective application context.
Often identified as reasons for students not to choose entrepreneurship and STEM career paths are lack of knowledge, appropriate skills, and/or missing role models. But will showing youth alternative career options, teaching skills that are relevant for entrepreneurship and science, and providing role models, increase numbers of opportunity-driven entrepreneurs as well as of students pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers? This is tested at high schools in Ecuador by, for the first time, providing online education courses for students. From September 2019 on, about 30,000 15-17 year olds in 110 public schools in Ecuador are provided access to an online education platform teaching entrepreneurial soft skills, scientific methods, and offering interviews with role models, and information about job options. A control group is shown placebo courses.
Ecuador is a particularly suitable empirical context for the project, since, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, it has high start-up rates, but to a greater extent than in comparable countries, these are driven by need-based start-ups with little chance of success and growth.
We expect the study to bring valuable information not only for developing countries but for developed countries wishing to increase the number of successful entrepreneurs and STEM students. Since the program is online based, it can be easily transferred across the world (particularly, in Spanish speaking countries).
INCHER-Kassel runs this project in cooperation with the Ministry of Education of Ecuador, World Bank, Labex ECODEC ENSAE, HEC Paris, and Warwick Business School.