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NYU Researchers Present Study Showing Education Primes the Pipeline of Innovative Entrepreneurs

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On September 23, two teams of researchers reported on the first phase of their study on effective approaches to the training of prospective innovative entrepreneurs at NYU Stern. Innovative entrepreneurs develop new products or services using new methods to produce or deliver existing goods and services at a lower cost, whereas replicative entrepreneurs produce or sell goods or services that are already available in the marketplace.

One of these teams has set out to provide a foundation for the redesign of entrepreneurship educational programs and to support the effectiveness of public policies designed to promote economic growth. Funded through a challenge grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the research is under the direction of Professors Batia Wiesenfeld and Jeffrey Simonoff of NYU Stern, and Professor Matt Mayhew and Post-doctoral fellow Laurie Behringer of NYU Steinhardt, with oversight from Professor William Baumol, academic director of NYU Stern’s Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

The other team, led by Dr. Albert Lee and financed by the Small Business Administration, focused on ways in which small businesses can make the most effective use of entrepreneurial talent.

The NYU researchers polled more than 5,500 students and alumni, from both graduate and undergraduate business schools at five universities. They are examining the link between educational experiences and innovative entrepreneurial activities (e.g., applying for patents, developing new products or services, or constructing new methods of production or service.)

Amy Deora of Summit Consulting, who was commissioned by the Small Business Administration to analyze the results of the survey, shared some initial findings:
  • Respondents who have taken an entrepreneurial course are more likely to have participated in entrepreneurial activities
  • MBA students are less likely than undergraduate students to work for a small business
  • MBAs with lower GPAs are more likely to work for a small business

Based on these findings, she underlined the importance of encouraging MBA students to work in the small business sector, which struggles to attract and retain top talent.

According to Professor Simonoff’s analysis of the survey results, several faculty practices are strongly associated with greater intent among students to pursue innovative entrepreneurial activity. They include:
  • Fostering relationships with students outside of the classroom
  • Administering exams and course assessments which force students to take a position and defend it
  • Highlighting societal implications of class material
  • Requiring students to formulate innovative solutions to new problems
He also highlighted some of the study’s next steps, including a survey of NYU Polytechnic students, polling in international schools and a re-sampling of respondents in the future to track changes over time.

“The preparation of a strong cadre of capable, innovative entrepreneurs – and not just replicative entrepreneurs – is critical to the repair and future prosperity of our economy,” explains Professor Baumol. “And these findings will undoubtedly contribute to the effectiveness of education of innovative entrepreneurs in the future.”