Stanford University is famous for its academic flexibility, ability to attract naturally highly ambitious students, and inspire those who are not. The best known example is of course Google, started by a couple of PhD students on an official academic leave, with the support of academic staff.
In Scotland, the UK, and Europe in general, people tend to not have the entrepreneurial spirit we see in the Silicon Valley. Our education system has to work harder in order to inspire and motivate students. An economy cannot rely solely on large corporations. Innovation is the main driver of value, and only entrepreneurs take the risk of innovating.
Edinburgh University is lucky to have a whole eco-system of societies. Being in Scotland, most are dedicated to finding innovative ways to drink more alcohol more efficiently, but some of them try to inspire and give students a chance to find opportunities. It starts with the Business Society which is a group of students interested in networking between them. Then there are specialised groups, such as EUTIC (Edinburgh University Trade & Investment Club), iCUE (Innovative Consulting, University of Edinburgh), the E-Club (Entrepreneurs Club), the Edinburgh Group, etc. They give students the opportunity to join a community of inspired people willing to learn from each other.
On top of these are the organisations mentioned in my previous post which support entrepreneurs: Launch, EPIS, SIE, etc. They can help students write business plans and providing highly skilled business mentors. They also organise a number of events to showcase those who made it, and inspire more students.
It seems there is a missing link. Support is available for those who have an idea, and events are available to those who do not have ideas. Inspirational speakers are pretty much everywhere.
The problem is that students go to University to get a degree in a particular subject. They may get business training during that degree, but cannot really spend too much time growing an idea whilst completing a degree. The financial and professional pressure after graduation is such that most graduates join stable and secure graduates schemes in large companies. Relieving that pressure, by offering students the opportunity to spend a period of time after graduation, would make some give it a try at starting a business. It would also make the SIE, Launch, and EPIS offers a lot more useful as these resources already in place would be more commonly used.
Interested in the subject? Informatics Ventures is organising an event in September, the International Entrepreneurship Educators Conference.