HUBspot to drive regional innovation
Skills training for students, researchers and entrepreneurs and guidance for start-ups. These are the prime tasks of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship – HUBspot – a joint initiative of Leiden University, the University of Applied Sciences Leiden and the municipality of Leiden.
Concentration of valorisation activities
HUBspot, under the slogan Innovate Leiden, will be located at Langegracht 70. Luris, the University’s valorisation institute, and Lugus, the pre-incubator for Leiden students who are toying with an idea for a business, will also be housed in the building. With these moves, the valorisation functions will be concentrated in one spot, so as to promote greater synergy between the different groups.
The centre has two main functions. The first is that it will be the regional centre for teaching on entrepreneurship. All university students in Leiden can follow courses there to develop the skills that are important for working in business or for starting up a company. Students who later move into research can apply the skills they learn at HUBspot for valorising their research (academic entrepreneurship). The idea is that all entrepreneurship teaching at Leiden University – such as Science Based Business – and the University of Applied Sciences will ultimately come together at HUBspot. ‘The University of Applied Sciences in Leiden (Hogeschool Leiden) is an enthusiastic partner,’ commented Director of HUBspot, Raffi Balder, a Leiden Law alumna. ‘The more practical approach of the students at the Hogeschool and the more scientific attitude of the students at Leiden University complement one another very well.’
Teaching entrepreneurship is primarily about learning competences. ‘Entrepreneurship skills are things like as effective communication, networking and presenting yourself convincingly. I call that intrapreneurship.’ These competences are not just important for people who want to set up their own company, Baalder believes, but are also needed to make companies more innovative from the inside out. It’s about staff not just doing their daily activities and then going home, but seeing opportunities for innovating processes or products. And then they know how to turn these opportunities into a new product or service.’ Enrepreneurship programmes at HUBspot are also open for researchers, and for entrepreneurs and their employees. At the same time, entrepreneurs and their staff are also invited to contribute to the teaching by becoming practice-oriented visiting lecturers. Students can also present cases from their own company. For researchers, HUBspot is an important resource if they’re considering starting up their own company, but they can also come here to get advice on how applicable their research may be.’
The second function of HUBspot is that of incubator, where new entrepreneurs can follow workshops, receive coaching and rent an office to work on their idea for their own company and make it a success. This is a very important function. We’ve known for a long time that only two out of every ten start-ups are successful. Recent research has shown that one of the main reasons for this is that there’s not enough interest in the product that the start-up is based on. Balder knows this from her own experience at the TU Delft where she worked for a similar centre. ‘The students spent two years developing a product that was technically perfect; they loved it. But the customer had no idea what to do with it. It was such a waste. It is more sensible to first look for potential clients and then to set up a pilot project together. That’s the only way of knowing whether your business model will work and then you can really start to build your product. Students in Leiden are in any event less focused on technology, and so will be less likely to fall into that trap. And that’s a positive start.’
HUBspot has close links with the regional collaboration partnership Economie071 and Area071 that focuses on starters in the region. Director Raffi Balder took up the position a short while ago. She succeeds Arnoud Jullens, who worked on establishing HUBspot over the past six months together with the Hogeschool Leiden and the municipality of Leiden, and with partners Oxford University, Area071 and the University knowledge exchange office Luris. The current head of the initiative is Ivo de Nooijer, Director of Luris. HUBspot is expected to open at the start of the summer.