This proposed programme can be contrasted with the traditional HEI course model in two ways in particular. Firstly, instead of providing a standard curriculum based on a set sequence of content, the logic of this programme is “just in time learning”. Entrepreneurs will mostly learn about topics as and when they need to for their own business.

Secondly, instead of the lecturer being the expert downloading content to the student, the peer mentoring dimension to the programme means that participants will mostly learn from each other. This is the element that will most of all keep senior managers engaged during the crises they face in running their businesses. Thirdly, rather than being purely local, this network will harness digital technology to introduce SMEs to members of a cross-European network and provide access to expertise and learning resources from across Europe. This in turn will help to accelerate participants’ readiness to internationalise. Much of the skills development through the network will also be focused on using digital technology to best effect for growing business.

Finally, by developing a model of academic award based on learning acquired in the work place, this model represents an innovative way for HEIs to engage effectively with SMEs, and if successful can open up a much wider range of possibilities.

The objectives of the proposed project are:

  • To recruit 140 SME senior managers onto the programme –23-4 per participating member state. Of these at least 56, or 40%, will be women senior managers.
  • To organise small group peer mentoring meetings of 10 one evening per month over the life of the project.
  • To provide all with a programme of training workshops that engages each participant at least twice in the first six months and at least ten times over the programme as a whole
  • To ensure that at least 80 participants take part in webinars or access learning resources provided by the KICs
  • To provide at least four mentoring sessions for all participants in developing their strategic plan
  • To ensure that at least 125 will complete the programme successfully by preparing a strategic plan for their organisation of sufficient quality to merit an academic award
  • To provide training and mentoring for 28 group facilitators, half from the HEIs and half from the non-HE patron companies/organisations
  • To develop at least 30 case studies from the programme that will inform further research on entrepreneurship.

This programme will meet the objectives of the EIT HEI initiative in the following ways:

  1. It will develop a new model of HE programme that can be replicated in other parts of the HEIs’ portfolios and also by other HEIs. It is a model that will also help to accelerate SMEs’ international development.
  2. It provides a focus for cross-faculty collaboration on a single structured programme in the participating HEIs, which will require input from Science and Engineering as well as Business disciplines.
  3. It leverages the activities of the EIT KICs by facilitating access to learning from them by participating SMEs and preparing many for engagement with an EIT Accelerator.  
  4. This project will connect two KIC HEI members, four non-member HEIs, eight non-HEI partner organisations who will jointly manage it, and 140 SMEs who participate. The programme of learning that will be organised for participating SMEs will draw in significant part from the resources of the KICs and in larger part from outside.
  5. The participating HEIs will engage in a project that involves a departure from the traditional model of education, which can be extended to other parts of their portfolios of programmes.
  6. The project will empower the participating HEIs to take a significant step forward in effectively supporting SME innovation.