The event was organised by Ghent University together with University College Ghent and Univeristy College Artevelde as part of the Ghent entrepreneurial ecosystem. They believe in the American model of thinking, that you can’t be young enough to start-up a business and learn while doing. For that reason they implemented a status for student-entrepreneurs, which enables them to find peers who are doing the same and get coaching in order to help them professionalize faster. With this event they intended to inform and inspire their students to be more entrepreneurial and use their time and knowledge to start-up as an entrepreneur, if they have the potential to do so.
This event came about because of an event I had participated in last year called Converge Challenge which was highlighting innovation from young entrepreneurs. I was the judge and speaker for the EESC. A young Belgian student was impressed that I represented the EESC and was aware of his professor Rudy Aernoudt, also being active within the EESC, As a result, one of the Professors from the University asked us to come and talk about our work, in the context of entrepreneurship. Hence we did this as a Going Local part of our work through the EESC.
Presenting an overall view of entrepreneurship in the EU, I highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship as a mechanism to exit the crisis, essentially presenting the spirit of the Opinion "Creativity and entrepreneurship: mechanisms for climbing out of the crisis", INT/519 stressing the importance of the steps which could be taken to make a change. My own witness on how I became entrepreneur was considered as very convincing by the students. I also raised the issue of female entrepreneurs, as asked by the organisers, and this was again questioned by students in the Q&A part. My experience as an entrepreneur and how that fitted with the EESC and policy making seemed to add value to the theory often experienced in the class room. Inspiring women in Ghent, to follow my path and consider entrepreneurship was also one of their goals.
Rudy spoke on the role of Government in entrepreneurship and highlighted that research and statistics gave clear evidence that the increased interference of the state led to decreased entrepreneurial activity. He also highlighted that a culture built on subsidies and grants was also having a negative impact on entrepreneurship. He stressed the impact of entrepreneurship on growth and employment. He highlighted that it was the role of institutions like the EESC to engage with Universities and students and to bring back their views to policy makers. As continental Europe as a whole is still considered as a region characterised by a low level entrepreneurial activity, an institution such as the EESC has a major role to play in order to keep the entrepreneurship issue on the top of the political agenda.
During the discussion we were joined by IT entrepreneur Inge Geerdens, the CEO of CVWarehouse which provides online recruitment software for businesses.
All three of us gave our individual presentations and then joined a debate panel and took questions and answers from the floor on the role of the EESC and on entrepreneurship. Most of the students stressed their agnosticism about Europe and the European institutions and considered that the EESC had a major role to play in bridging the confidence gap between the institutions and the European citizens. We were later taken for dinner where we had the opportunity to further discuss about the perspectives of combining academic work with entrepreneurship and policy making.
Thank you for this great opportunity to introduce the EESC’s work on entrepreneurship and to strengthen cooperation with both the university and the students.
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