In November, a new international cooperation project UnivEntre was launched led by the University of Tartu Startup Lab. The project focuses on improving the efficiency of the Ukrainian higher education system to promote the country's innovation capacity and the quality of education.
Over the next two years, Startup Lab will educate business lecturers at Ukrainian universities and share Estonia's experiences on how to make cooperation between universities and the business sector effective. The project will run until 1 June 2024.
According to Piret Arusaar, Senior Project Specialist at University of Tartu School of Economics and Business Administration, and Project Manager of Startup Lab, new winds are blowing in Ukraine’s higher education system. "For example, in the spring of 2021, a new start-up entrepreneurship course was launched at 85 Ukrainian universities that are also part of the UnivEntre project network. However, as this topic is new in university curricula, it is not possible to immediately recruit teachers with the appropriate competencies. Within the framework of UnivEntre, a development programme for increasing the entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial competence of lecturers is being designed, and the plan is to involve nearly two hundred lecturers in it,” said Arusaar. Also, a programme supporting cooperation between Ukrainian universities and companies will be developed and implemented jointly with Ukrainian partners. The most active Ukrainian lecturers and researchers who have passed it will have the opportunity to participate at the international business festival Startup Day in Tartu.
According to Maret Ahonen, the Startup Lab manager, the Ukrainian start-up businesses and the network of support organisations have developed strongly and, like other countries, Ukraine is on the hunt for talent. There is a network of universities that want to gain the reputation of an entrepreneurial university and encourage students, researchers, and academics to put their ideas into practice. "We think our UnivEntre project is in the right place at the right time," said Ahonen.
According to Andrii Zaikin, a representative of the Ukrainian partner, the NGO Platform of Innovative Partnership, there is a need in Ukraine to build the cooperation capacity of teachers and researchers and accelerate the development of the network of entrepreneurial universities. In his opinion, Estonia's experience and knowledge will be of great help in this.
Startup Lab has been supporting the development of the Ukrainian education system since 2016. "We have successfully established ourselves in Ukraine, our experience and knowledge are highly valued. This is the third project in the last five years," said Arusaar.
In 2017–2019, a project focused on the implementation of the Starter idea development programme in Ukraine was carried out. The content and methodology of the Starter proved to be very popular among Ukrainian students. According to Andrii Zaikin, the Starter programme was designed according to the needs of the Ukrainian business ecosystem and has now become an early-stage start-up development programme that is implemented across Ukraine.
In 2019–2021, more attention was paid to increasing the innovation capacity of small businesses and strengthening their competitiveness through university-business cooperation.
The NGO Platform of Innovative Partnership, similarly to Startup Lab, offers students practical entrepreneurship training and is one of the most active drivers of educational innovation in Ukraine. Under the brand name Yep, the NGO brings together more than 80 Ukrainian universities, including the Kyiv National University of Trade and Economics, the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, the National Aviation University, and the Donetsk National Technical University.