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Project Lead:

Dr. Paul Keane (paul.keane@mtu.ie)

Project Status

In Progress

Project Lead Home Department:

MTU Cork - Mechanical, Electrical and Process Engineering - Mechanical, Biomedical and Manufacturing Engineering

Alignment to HEA and NFETLHE SATLE 2022-23 Themes

  • Education for Sustainable Development (ESD);

Alignment to MTU Strategy Themes

  • Research, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Ecosystem;
  • Leading Regional Development;
  • Global Outlook;
  • Learner Education & Experience;

Project Description

Innovative Product Development (IPD) is a multi-award-winning programme delivered to multidisciplinary teams of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering students, and business and accounting students across MTU. Students are placed in multi-disciplinary teams and tasked with generating an idea for a new innovative product. The product must be novel, have commercial potential, and allow for a physical prototype or proof of concept to be developed.

We have seen resounding successes from our students with significant achievements at national and international competitions. During the last three years students have won; top prize at the MTU Prize for Innovation 2021, 2022 (9 out of the top 10 prizes both years), 2023, winner of the Dyson Ireland Award 2021, two groups in top ten of the Enterprise Ireland Student Innovation Awards in 2021 and 2022, University Start-u World Cup 2021 two groups in the semi-finals, and winner of the Engineers Ireland Innovative Student Engineer Awards 2022. A major goal of IPD is to foster the entrepreneurial intent of our students but even though the university could be considered best in class in innovation competitions, we are not seeing students progressing their ideas as business start-ups. Students are not considering entrepreneurship as a potential career path. Thompson (2009, p. 676) defines entrepreneurial intent as “a self-acknowledged conviction by a person that they intend to set up a new business venture and consciously plan to do so at some point in the future”. If students can see that entrepreneurial success is achievable and they value the rewards of that success then they will be more motivated to consider entrepreneurship after graduation or at some point in the future i.e. increasing their entrepreneurial intent (Keane, 2020).

The objective of this project is to engage students, staff, and external entrepreneurial role models to develop a set of proposals and recommendations for an MTU pilot initiative to enhance the entrepreneurial intent of undergraduate students. This initiative will have the potential to significantly impact the students, staff and external partners of the MTU.

What is the anticipated impact of this project?

This project will develop a set of proposals and recommendations for an MTU pilot initiative to enhance the entrepreneurial intent of undergraduate students. These recommendations will address how to overcome perceived barriers to entry to entrepreneurship and outline the most valued rewards of entrepreneurship as perceived by our students. The project will also highlight other best in class entrepreneurship incentive programmes.

It is anticipated that the project will impact approximately 120 students. Students will reflect on their own attitudes to entrepreneurship. Reflection is “a tool for promoting learning and higher order thinking skills, developing professional practice and facilitating and structuring learning through experience” (Coulson & Harvey, 2013, p.401). Reflective practice involves including reflection within your everyday practice and using the reflections to shape what you do on a day-to-day basis (Fulton et al., 2013, p. 37). Students will also be able to assess their own entrepreneurial intent and consider if entrepreneurship is a potential option for their career path.

This project will help staff better understand the perceived barriers to entry for students and the perceived value of entrepreneurship rewards. By knowing the barriers and rewards, staff can then develop an initiative that will help to reduce these perceived barriers and emphasise those rewards that the students value.

By utilising external entrepreneurship role models, links will be developed between SMEs with a sharing of knowledge and expertise. Startups may find entrepreneurs with similar ideas and agree to work together and collaborate.

What will the outputs of this project be?

We will measure the impact of participation by measuring the entrepreneurial intent of our students before and after the initiative. A qualitative analysis of the student reflections will also be varried out using Nvivo software.

The findings of these reflections will be used to recruit students for a pilot initiative to entice more students to consider entrepreneurship. A bank of case studies will be built-up following individual student successes following their participation in the programme.

We would envisage that this is something that can be replicated in other HEIs. We would welcome the opportunity to work with the Teaching and Learning Forum to share our findings on how to organise and run this initiative with other HEIs, through presentations and conferences. 

Currently the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering is undertaking a longitudinal study looking at the entrepreneurial intent of its  Mechanical and Biomedical engineering students from first year through to graduation (and beyond). They will investigate how different initiatives influence the entrepreneurial intent of their students.

As part of the strategy to promote this initiative, the departmental Linkedin page will be used. Here the successes of student startups can be communicated. This has become a great tool for disseminating outputs of other projects we have been involved in.

Team Members:

  • John O' Donoghue, External Entrepreneurial Role Model (CEO of Thera Dep)
  • Dr. Paul Keane – MTU Cork campus (BEng Hons Biomedical Engineering Course Coordinator)
  • Dr. Hugh O Donnell – MTU Cork campus (BEng Hons Biomedical Engineering Course Coordinator)
  • Carole O’ Leary – MTU Cork campus (Regional Programme Manager for 3rd Level Student Entrepreneurship)
  • Josette O' Mullane - MTU Cork Campus (Innovation and Enterprise Office representative)
  • George Bullman - MTU Rubicon Centre (Operations Manager Rubicon Centre)
  • Students; Year 3 Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering students, year 4 Business students (Approximately 120 students). Feedback providers; student reflection and focus groups

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