Creating the Entrepreneurial University

This post has been contributed by prof. Colette Henry, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Ireland


In recent years, higher education institutions (HEIs) throughout the world have been put under continuous pressure to fulfil their ‘third mission’ and become more entrepreneurial. However, despite its general acceptance within the higher education landscape, the concept of the ‘entrepreneurial university’ remains somewhat elusive. For example, Kirby (2020) considers an entrepreneurial university to be one with the ability to innovate, recognise and create opportunities, take risks and respond to challenges. As such, it takes on the role of a ‘natural incubator’, supporting its staff and students in their efforts to create new ventures. According to Foss and Gibson (2015), there are many different ways in which universities can demonstrate their entrepreneurial ability, as illustrated in their collection of international good practice examples of entrepreneurship programmes and initiatives which they present against the backdrop of an institutional framework. Thorpe and Goldstein (2010) suggest that entrepreneurial universities should be seen as organisations that thrive on solving big problems, value innovation, encourage partnerships between academics and entrepreneurs, and places culture ahead of structure. To some extent, Apostolopoulos et al. (2018) support this view by advocating for a move away from spin-off focused notions of the entrepreneurial university toward one that highlights a HEI’s role in sustainable development.

The HEInnovate Framework

Developed in conjunction with the OECD Local Economic and Employment Development Programme, HEInnovate is an initiative of the European Commission’s DG Education and Culture. It is designed specifically for use within HEIs, allowing them to assess their existing level of innovativeness and entrepreneurialism, explore their future potential, and by extension, help them become entrepreneurial universities. (Henry, 2015). As a holistic self-assessment tool, it is intended to provide guidance to HEIs across eight core dimensions: Leadership and Governance; Organizational Capacity; Entrepreneurial Teaching and Learning; Preparing and Supporting Entrepreneurs; Digital Information and Capabilities; Knowledge Exchange and Collaboration; The Internationalised Institution, and Measuring Impact (the tool can be accessed here

A series of self-assessed questions are posed across these dimensions, each requiring a self (institutional)-rating on a Likert scale. The self-assessment is conducted on line, with an option to save responses and revisit/edit question responses prior to submission of the completed questionnaire. The assessment can be conducted anonymously, and on an individual or group basis. Feedback is instantaneous, with a summary overview provided as a bar chart, an individual score given per question, and an average rating calculated for each dimension. In their final report, the Thematic Working Group on Entrepreneurship Education, recommended the roll out and expansion of the HEInnovate tool (EC, 2014).

Towards HEInnovate 2.0 (THEI2.0): From assessment to action

THEI2.0 is a five country, EU-funded study under ERASMUS+ (Forward Looking Cooperation Projects in the fields of Education and Training), designed to enhance the use and impact of the EC-OECD’s HEInnovate tool across Europe. The project team includes representatives from Portugal, Ireland, Germany, Spain and Finland. Over a period of two years (January 202 to December 2021), the team – all experienced entrepreneurship and innovation educators, researchers and activists – will work together to explore in detail how the HEInnovate tool is currently being used by European HEIs in their efforts to become more entrepreneurial. The study will build on previous work that sought to critique and augment the HEInnovate framework for the purposes of enhancing its application in practice (Henry, 2015). The current THEI2.0 study will seek to find out who (role and level) takes responsibility within HEIs for managing the tool; which specific dimensions of the tool they are focusing on; what types of actions are being implemented as a result, and how effective the tool is from the HEI’s perspective. The team, led by the University of Aveiro, will use these data to develop an in depth understanding of how HEInnovate is being applied in practice, gaining valuable insights into current good practices and compiling an overview of what works and what does not. Findings will inform the construction of a novel implementation tool aimed at significantly improving current usage of HEInnovate,  augmenting its overall impact in practice, and enhancing HEI’s efforts to become entrepreneurial universities.

The project team held its kick-off meeting in Aveiro at the end of January, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, conducted its ‘Barcelona’ meeting via zoom. Future meetings – hopefully of the ‘real and in-person’ type – are planned for Cork (Ireland), Lappeenranta (Finland) and Berlin Germany. An edited book in addition to a number of academic papers will be produced from the project.

For further information on the project, or to discuss opportunities to contribute data to the THEI2.0 study, please visit the project website: or contact: Professor Colette Henry, Head of Department of Business Studies, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Ireland (


Apostolopoulos, N., Moon, C. and Walmsley, A. (2018), The entrepreneurial university as an engine for sustainable development, International Journal of Innovation and Regional Development (IJIRD)Vol. 8, No. 4, 2018

EC (2014), Thematic Working Group on Entrepreneurship Education, final report, Brussels, November, available at: documents/entrepreneurship-report-2014_en.pdf (last accessed 28 April 2015).

Foss, L. and Gibson, D.V. (2015), The Entrepreneurial University: Context and institutional change, Abingdon: Routledge.

Henry, C. (2015),Entrepreneurship Education Evaluation: Revisiting Storey to hunt for the heffalump, Education + Training, 57 (8/9), pp. 816 – 833.

Kirby, D. (2020), Identifying and creating the entrepreneurial University, AdvanceHE website, 10th February, available at: (last accessed 19th July 2020).

Thorpe, H. and Goldstein, B. (2010), The Entrepreneurial University, INSIDE Higher Ed, 27th September, available at: (last accessed 19th July 2020).