Are you looking to attend a university where you can gain real-world experience and launch an idea? Many universities in Europe have start-up incubator programmes—great places to refine your business plan and bring an idea into fruition. In this EDUopinions article, we will briefly discuss what exactly start-up incubators are as well as list some of the best universities offering start-up incubators.
What is a start-up incubator?
Start-up incubators are typically programmes or non-profit organisations which assist entrepreneurs in launching their ideas into real businesses. Providing resources like work space, business mentorship and sometimes even seed funding, joining a start-up incubator can be a great way to get your business plan off the ground. In addition, incubators are great places to expand your network of contacts and make connections for the future. While the amount of time you spend in an incubator programme can vary depending on a variety of factors, most students will spend between 18 and 24 months getting their ideas off the ground.
What is a start-up incubator in university?
On the whole, the main difference between start-up incubators in universities and those that stand alone is membership. Universities with their own incubator programmes typically only allow current students and recent alumni to join. To do so, students must apply usually with a solid business plan, have good grades and/or go through interviews to assess their motivation and preparedness. University is a great place to join an incubator programme, as it provides students with a space to engage with their course content in a meaningful and real-world context.
Why do universities in Europe have start-up incubator programmes?
Universities in Europe have start-up incubator programmes in order to best prepare and support their students’ entrepreneurial spirit and aspirations. Of course, not all universities and business schools are home to incubator programmes, but those that do typically dedicate many resources to their students and their business ideas. For these reasons, being part of a start-up incubator programme is a great way to gain business insights, make connections and make your idea a reality.
Universities in Europe with Start-up incubator programmes:
SKEMA Business School
The first on our list of universities in Europe with start-up programmes is SKEMA Business School, a highly-ranked institution based in France. What sets SKEMA apart from so many other business schools is its international dimension, with campuses in France, the US, Brazil and China. Such a global presence allows for a transnational exchange of ideas and leads to truly innovative and international ideas. Once a student is accepted into SKEMA’s incubator programme, they are assigned a coach who guides them through the process and provides advice and feedback on their business strategy. What’s more, SKEMA maintains a network of business partnerships in each of their locations, meaning students have access to local connections on four different continents. Clearly, SKEMA offers many advantages to its students, especially those interested in entrepreneurship, which is why it is such a great option for your business studies.
I recently completed a Masters (MSc) in Digital Business, Data Analysis and Management in SKEMA in Sophia Antipolis.
We were 15 students which allowed a real personal approach and a great learning experience. It was a good mixture of theory and practical content, such as using data visualisation Tools, simple AI Tools or présentations on data intensive companies and platforms.
Teachers were thoroughly interested in their students and motivated. The programme was very international, with students from 8 or 9 different nationalities. Also interesting that SKEMA is located in the European Silicon Valley Sophia Antipolis, so very close to lots of high tech start-ups.
Next, IE University in Spain is another great choice of universities in Europe with start-up incubator programmes. The on-campus IE start-up lab provides students with a plethora of resources to help them turn their ideas into reality. Thanks to training seminars, mentorship programmes and a vast network of contacts, students gain a thorough and practical understanding of the various aspects of starting a business, including marketing, legal considerations, securing funding and overall strategy. Apart from its start-up incubator, IE University offers a number of top-notch degrees from bachelor to PhD levels. All in all, IE University is a great option for anyone looking to jump headfirst into the business world and learn what it takes to be a successful professional.
I am a 2nd year BBA student at IE University in Segovia. I really enjoy the school. The campus is located in an old building but is still very modern inside. Technologies are implemented in the whole school and a gym, cafeteria are offered. The teaching is very good, as teachers are open and always available. They are professionals passionated about their subject. There is also a lot of diversity with more than 150 nationalities on campus. The amount of class per day is quite small, allowing to visit or do other activities during the day. I highly recommend the Segovia campus if you like to be surrounded by people most of the times. Indeed, it is like a family here. Also, if you want to get both the experience of segovia and madrid, it is a good choice to choose this campus first.
Delft University of Technology – TU Delft
Located in the Netherlands, Delft University of Technology is home to another start-up incubator programme. Established in 2005, YES!Delft is the name of the university’s incubator and is the largest of its kind in Europe. The programme has an impressive track record of helping young entrepreneurs launch businesses, having supported over 200 companies, 90% of which are still active today. In addition, to the YES!Delft programme, the city of Delft is home to five other incubators, each with slightly different focuses. What this means for students at TU Delft is that they can be sure to benefit from close access to such a dynamic and innovative business atmosphere.
Delft University of Technology is the best place to broaden your knowledge and to expand your scope. Besides your own discipline, you get the opportunity to work with several disciplines and external companies in national as well as international projects.
Saïd Business School – SBS
Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford also provides its students with an exciting place to gain hands-on experience in launching a company. At the Saïd Entrepreneurship Centre, students receive holistic and well-rounded support for their business ideas. Rather than just coaching students, Saïd Business School coordinates across departments and disciplines to support students’ academic, personal and professional aims. Within the entrepreneurship centre, there are various programmes on offer, allowing students to choose which one best suits their needs, be it to secure funding, to make a social impact or to brainstorm with like-minded students and professionals.
Universidad de Salamanca
Another great university in Europe with a start-up incubator is the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain. Home to an existing Science Park, Universidad de Salamanca has integrated an entrepreneurship unit to build an “open knowledge ecosystem,” in which students, entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and the like exchange in brainstorming and innovation. Alongside all the new, the Universidad de Salamanca is still Spain’s oldest at over 800 years old! Such a long tradition of education is part of what sets this university apart from others. Check out what Ángela had to say about their experience there:
My experience as a student at the University of Salamanca has to say that it has been satisfactory. In certain aspects I have benefited more from being a member of this university community than from the degree itself. In my case, I studied Occupational Therapy, a poorly developed career at this university that aspires to improve every year. Still, the many conferences, talks, presentations, language courses … etc that the university offers are very useful.
Universidad de Granada – UGR
Last but not least is another Spanish institution—Universidad de Granada. There, students benefit from a dedicated business incubator area just for students and mentors involved in entrepreneurship. The university further supports students’ business ambitions by sharing its network of important stakeholders across Granada and Andalucía, allowing them to find future opportunities, expand their ideas and integrate into the local business ecosystem. What’s more, Universidad de Granada is a great option for those studying on a budget, with tuition fees as low as €820 per year! Without a doubt, UGR is an excellent option for your studies in business and entrepreneurship, offering so much for an affordable price.
I think the UGR could be overall rated as good. The quality obviously depends on the degree you’re studying and on the teachers you have. In terms of paperwork, the process is considerably clear. However, I think that it’s not the University itself, but the atmosphere of the city that makes it so great to study in Granada. Some lectures will be better than others, but university life there is definitely one of the best you can get to experience.
Conclusion about what universities in Europe have start-up incubators:
Many universities in Europe are home to their own start-up incubators. However, the ones we have covered in this article stand out from the rest on account of their unique approaches, plentiful resources and world-recognised degree programmes. For more information about these incubators or to help find other similar programmes, feel free to reach out to EDUopinions for everything you need to know!
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