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uni'wissen 01-2016_ENG

“The trade-off, developing the innovation into a finished product, is a very time-consuming process.” comes in. Offered as part of the training program Smart-X, this workshop gives people like Pfeifer a chance to determine whether they have the necessary skills to run their own business. The workshop helps students learn to think like entre- preneurs even before they have completed their degree. The training program Smart-X, winner of the University of Freiburg’s Instructional Devel- opment Award (IDA) in 2015, was offered for stu- dents of the bachelor’s program in ESE starting in 2014. “Smart” stands for intelligent technologies that feel, think, or act in the place of humans. The “X” represents a technology of any kind – for example a thermostat that turns on the radiator as soon as someone enters the room or a coffee machine that fetches cups on its own before making coffee. These are the kinds of inventions the ESE students are tinkering with. Learning to Be an Entrepreneur Since some of the students are not satisfied just tinkering with their innovations on their own, the program has now been expanded to include the Exist Bootcamp and opened to students of all fields. The fact that half of the participants are students from the humanities testifies to the success of the newly expanded program. But what can students discover about themselves and their in- clination to establish a business in the space of a two-day workshop? “A whole lot,” says Sabrina Reinshagen, who helped develop the concept for the workshop as marketing and communication officer of the Faculty of Engineering’s continuing education program in intelligent embedded micro- systems (IEMS). The boot camp gives students the chance to find out what qualifications entre- preneurs need, whether they would make good entrepreneurs at all in light of their strengths and weaknesses, and how to identify whether a busi- ness idea is promising. To discover the potential they have in them- selves for becoming entrepreneurs, the students engaged in activities like visualizing a business idea in a group and using the so-called business model canvas to identify customer groups and distribution channels. Another important element of the boot camp was lectures by real-life entrepreneurs. They told the students how much effort they had to put in before they could finally make money with their business and what part failure played in the process. The seminar did not make all of the participants want to found their own business, says Dr. Tobias Schubert, lecturer and researcher at the Department of Computer Science and direc- tor of the IEMS continuing education program. But that’s not the point, he finds: “You can’t learn if you don’t try something out” – and Smart-X and Bootcamp give students the opportunity to do so. Most importantly, however, Smart-X provides an education in entrepreneurship that is even open to students of bachelor’s programs. “Entrepreneur- ship and self-employment are still topics that receive far too little attention at the university,” Schubert finds. Yet it is important to promote knowledge transfer between the university and private enterprise and to build up a culture of experimentation. Weighing Costs and Benefits So how is Marc Pfeifer’s business project coming along? At the moment, he’s spending a lot of time in a lab at the Faculty of Engineering and improving his sensor to make it ready for the market. “The trade-off, developing the innovation into a finished product, is a very time-consuming process,” he says. Schubert adds that “for a normal master’s thesis, it would be enough to develop a working prototype. But if you want to start a busi- ness, you need to think beyond this point, make your device user-friendly, and of course also weigh the costs.” For example, Pfeifer’s sensor needs to be small, inexpensive, and practical, while still fulfilling its function – namely to measure temperature and distinguish between heavy and light impacts. Pfeifer served as a tutor for Smart-X and participated in Bootcamp himself. Now he knows Students sketched out their ideas for an imaginary company in a workshop. 49