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Promoting student innovation and entrepreneurship

Innovation has always been deeply embedded at the heart of the Universidad de los Andes. From the very core of the institution –it’s mission statement– can be seen to play a key role: “the University of the Andes is an autonomous, independent and innovative institution that fosters pluralism, tolerance and respect for ideas; which seeks academic excellence and imparts to its students a critical and ethical formation to strengthen in them the awareness of their social and civic responsibilities, as well as their commitment to the environment.” 

Student innovation and entrepreneurship is highly endorsed in certain faculties, both inside and outside of the classroom. As for the latter one, the Business School’s Student Council carries out the annual TED x Las Aguas event, the Innovation Tip Talks, and the View From the Top Conference Series, all aiming to inspire students to initiate themselves into the I&E world.

Inside the classroom, the business school and the design school are the leaders in the creation and implementation of I&E opportunities, with the industrial engineering department trailing not far behind. Right from the very beginning, the foundation courses have succeeded in piquing students’ interest in I&E. Intro to Industrial Engineering and Intro to Management, teach the students how important it is to keep their minds open to everything I&E has to offer. In other courses later on, such as “Emprendimiento e Innovación” (a course dedicated to the practice of I&E) students harvest finer entrepreneurial skills. All the previously mentioned courses share one common goal: to have students dedicate the whole semester’s work to developing a project of their choosing.

After developing, though, comes implementing; and that’s where most projects deviate and stay in just dreams. Here, once again, the university’s institutions step in to help student entrepreneurs. If students need to come up with a stronger and more innovative core, there are student participation circles, such as Empreandes, that can asses them in doing so hand in hand with their certified mentors, their interactive workshops and their business oriented makerspace. If, however, what students need is a guide on their journey through the entrepreneurial process, big scale entrepreneurship accelerators like Despega Colombia, can help propel a student’s own particular idea. Furthermore, for economic aid in launching a project, students whose ideas show great potential may go to Ceiba, whose budget is dedicated to these means.

Some student Lead I&E clubs, events and programs:

  • TEDx Las Aguas
  • TEDx Ceiba
  • "DEU – Día del Emprendimiento Uniandino" (Entrepreneurship Day @ Los Andes)
  • Empreandes (Entrepreneurship Lab)
  • CEFA – Consejo Estudiantil Facultad de Administración (Business School Student Council)
  • Despega Colombia (A hybrid between an entrepreneurship incubator and competition)
  • View From the Top Talks
  • Innovation Tip Talks

Courses imparting the importance –or allowing active participation in– I&E:

  • "Fundamentos de Administración y Gerencia" (Intro to management)
  • "Fundamentos de Administración y Gerencia" (Intro to management for non-business majors)
  • "Estudio VII: Sostenibilidad" (Studio #7: Sustainability)
  • "Introducción a la Ingeniería Industrial" (Intro to Industrial Engineering)
  • "Proyecto Intermedio" (Mid-major project)
  • "Creación de nuevas empresas" (Creation of new organizations)
  • "Creatividad" (Creativity)
  • "Producto IV" (Product Course #4)
  • "Producto Industrial" (Industrial Product)
  • "Taller de Creatividad – Maestría en Administración de Empresas" (Creativity Workshop for Masters Students)
  • "'Emprendimiento e Innovación – Programa de Maestría" (I&E Course for the Masters in Business Management)
  • "'Emprendimiento Socio-Ambiental" (Social and Environmental Entrepreneurship)

Encouraging faculty innovation and entrepreneurship

Faculty innovation and entrepreneurship is encouraged a matter of great relevance at the Universidad de Los Andes. Given its long-established national renown as the pioneer university in terms of R&D, it was just a matter of time before innovation and entrepreneurship ensued as a practice and became key to the faculty production at Los Andes. At the moment, investigative portfolios and academic production from the faculty members is classified in one of 5 big topics:

  1. Neuroscience
  2. Gender studies
  3. Historic environmental analysis
  4. Investigations for peace
  5. Corruption

All the content held within these areas helps the nation at a macro level, helping organize and elevate public debate on the matter, by providing technical and empirical elements on the matter. None of these would have been a reality, had it not been for innovation in their development.

But where do faculty members go to advance their knowledge in I&E? As it turns out, the University also provides teachers –not just students– with practical tools to develop their profiles as entrepreneurs and innovators. For example, Conécta–TE (an entrepreneurship epicenter dedicated to innovation in education and technology), offers the course “Conecta-TE en Vacaciones”: an institutional initiative that seeks to provide the teachers of the University of Los Andes with spaces to design innovations that can be applied in their classes. Each year there is a particular course with a range of topics that can be applied to develop their subjects and class interactions.

Actively supporting the university technology transfer function

 The Universidad de los Andes is currently working on developing a strong Technology Transfer Office. At the moment, the university relies on the Office for Technology and Knowledge Transfer (OTTC, for its initials in Spanish) to carry out the functions of an institution with this reason of being. The OTTC currently encourages the members of the university to create patents, work with outside businesses with which the university holds alliances, and interact with non-profits and other organizations, in order to commercialize the different creations of the university’s student community’s leaders.

This office, nonetheless, is relatively new, so most of the students have not been exposed to its dynamics and even its purpose. It is of great importance for the university to improve the reach and the acceptance of this program within the university environment.

Facilitating University-Industry Collaboration

Many programs at Universidad de los Andes have established strategic alliances with different key partners in the industry. These alliances have proved to be really effective, since they have paved the way for hand in hand work between the University and the Industry. Students are also encouraged to take part in these projects since most of the first-hand assistance to research groups are elective courses open to students of the pertaining major.

There are also some student created spaces that connect efforts of the University with those of the industry. Despega Colombia, mentioned above, is a good example of this partnerships. Since it’s a hybrid between an entrepreneurship accelerator and competition, there is an important portion of I&E concepts to be taught to the students: these concepts are imparted by some strategic partners of Despega Colombia, such as Fisheye, InQLab and Háptica, three prominent entrepreneurship incubators at a regional level. This is a prime example of how students start weaving bonds with the industry, recognizing the mutual benefits that ensue from such collaborations.

Engaging with regional and local economic development efforts

Analyzing the contact between the University and both the regional and local communities is key to understanding just how important the institution’s efforts are in kindling economic development. Many algid social, cultural and political issues are constantly debated by the University’s top academics and the students of the postgraduate programs. These think tanks range from an ample spectrum of characteristics: The Industrial Engineering department has the “COPA” lab, oriented to technical problem solving, while the Politics Observatory of the Governmental Issues’ School, dedicated its time to social issues.

Another interesting example is the one presented by the Business School. Relevant information regarding both the public and private sectors, is kept at arm’s reach so students begin to learn how to solve real world problems while still in school. Some of these solutions ideated by undergraduate students themselves are presented outside of the university at a greater stage.

The pervious details can be identified in a series of economic spurring programs conducted by the University. One of the most relevant examples is the “Progresa Fenicia” Project. The Fenicia initiative aims to revitalize the community neighboring the campus. In the words of the program’s founders, the university decided that in “[response] to the challenge and the urgency of urban transformation in Bogota, the institution decided to take on the challenge of urban renewal of the sector in the surroundings of its central campus in Bogotá. This regeneration of the lifestyle of the Fenicia neighborhood inhabitants will imminently lead to a revamping of the local economy, while bearing in mind the real estate interests of the same people.

Related Links

Landscape Canvas:

Universidad de los Andes Student Priorities: Universidad de los Andes Student Priorities

Student Contributors

Pedro Juan Isaza

Camila Buenaventura

Nicolás Castro

Diana Solano