Tremendous progress has been made in increasing female participation in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Technology) disciplines in education, however there is still a lower level of females pursuing a career in STEAM.
Additionally, females who engage in STEAM tend to focus on working in existing organisations and do not consider how their STEAM expertise can be used in an entrepreneurial manner.
And while the focus can be on the drive to spinout, start-up, and knowledge valorisation at all levels, sometimes we need to take a step back and see if those doing the research and who are expertly placed to see how it can have an impact on society, have the skills to succeed along the final section of their journey.
This is where the EntreSTEAM programme at University of Limerick (UL) comes in.
The programme has been designed to address challenges and empower women to consider an entrepreneurial career.
Developed by a UL cross-disciplinary group from Technology Transfer Office, Nexus Innovation Centre and Kemmy Business School, following funding from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) in Ireland, its primary aim is to increase awareness of the natural connection between entrepreneurial thinking and STEAM disciplines.
It also highlights the many entrepreneurial career opportunities that emerge from applying an entrepreneurial mindset to STEAM such as starting your own enterprise, commercialisation of research, spin out companies or for use in an entrepreneurial context in an existing organisation.
Dr Briga Hynes, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at the Kemmy Business School, said: “The EntreSTEAM programme provides greater visibility to the importance and significance of creating a stronger EntreSTEAM support and peer learning ecosystem. It creates a valuable networking opportunity for peer learning and developing business opportunities which is a much-needed request by females starting new businesses in STEAM arena.”
How does it run
A suite of interconnected entrepreneurship programmes targeted at UL researchers has been developed and build on another UL pilot project ‘From Research to Spin Out – The Role of Entrepreneurial and Innovative Thinking’.
The principal aim is to continue to develop and nurture the creative, entrepreneurial and innovative talent across UL’s research community and to provide dedicated supports to female academics interested in commercialisation.
Running over a series of interactive workshops using novel creative techniques such as photovoice to engage participants to reflect on their entrepreneurial mindset, participants gain practical knowledge and tips to apply an entrepreneurial mindset to solve STEAM challenges.
The first programme, ‘Connecting and Enabling Female Entrepreneurial Ambition in STEAM Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths’ is an awareness creation entrepreneurship programme tailored to female researchers in the various research centres to address the female gap across STEAM and EntreSTEAM.
The second programme is an enhanced version of the pilot and will be an introductory programme to entrepreneurship for researchers interested in becoming more entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial in their approach to research and to introduce them to the idea of commercialisation.
Finally, the third programme is a more comprehensive programme titled From Research to Spin out -Validating and Creating the Business Case for Research Commercialisation.
This programme aims to support a diverse audience of researchers who are at an advanced stage of developing their research commercialisation and have the potential to develop funding proposals, PhD and post doc students and researchers working in the UL=based National Science Foundation of Ireland Research Centres and UL Research Institutes.
All three programmes are interconnected and generates more familiarity and understanding of the narratives of entrepreneurship and innovation applicable to all stages of the commercialisation journey.
Gert O’Rourke, Nexus Innovation Centre Manager said: “Any support that we can provide to those who are interested in considering an entrepreneurial career path is a step in the right direction. I am impressed with the high level of interest and calibre of researchers commercialising their research and students interested in scaling their business ideas. Our UL spinouts and Nexus members provide a valuable input into these programmes providing real-life honest insight into starting a business showcasing the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of start-up.”
This EntreSTEAM programme adds to the suite of dedicated Entrepreneurship Programmes for Researchers developed collaboratively by Nexus Innovation Centre, Kemmy Business School and the Technology Transfer Office.
This cross disciplinary collaboration provides researchers with an integrated perspective of the benefits bridging the technology/ science and business functions to generate innovations with commercial and societal impact and better understand the evolving relationship between science and industry.