Entrepreneurial skills are set to be taught at 45 Scottish universities and colleges as part of a 10-year plan to boost business creation.

First Minister Humza Yousaf launched The Entrepreneurial Campus plan during a visit to a technology campus in Brussels aiming to support digital transformation.

Strengthening global networks and supporting more university startups is among a raft of actions in the plan – aimed at inspiring entrepreneurial thinking and improving enterprise skills.

A £5.5m increase in the 2023-24 University Innovation Fund will help universities deliver the blueprint and Scotland’s National Innovation Strategy, while backing their wider efforts to turn world-leading research into important innovations.

The Entrepreneurial Campus report recommendations include:

  • teaching practical entrepreneurial skills as part of the wider university and college curriculum
  • encouraging collaboration between education institutions by strengthening global networks
  • supporting more spin-out companies to commercialise research and create innovative products
  • attracting alumni and experienced entrepreneurs back into colleges and universities as practitioners and mentors

The report was drawn up by Ross Tuffee, a business founder and investor with more than 30 years’ experience working with scaling up businesses, and honorary professor Joe Little, digital entrepreneur in residence at the University of Stirling. It was commissioned by chief entrepreneur Mark Logan in his role as a senior Scottish Government adviser.

Mr Yousaf launched the blueprint alongside Mr Tuffee during the visit to BeCentral Tech Campus, one of a series of engagements designed to reiterate Scotland’s relationship Scotland’s relationship with the European Union and demonstrate how Scotland can work closely with European partners in response to common challenges.

He said: “Evidence from around the world tells a compelling story of how entrepreneurship, properly harnessed, can drive innovation and economic growth. It is an area where we want to learn from, and work with, international partners in order to drive innovation across Scotland’s universities and colleges, which are some of the best in the world.

“Publication of this blueprint marks our clear commitment to supporting enterprise and innovation. We can capitalise on the world-leading research and development work that already goes on in our higher education institutions – by inspiring and encouraging students and staff to engage with entrepreneurship and innovation learning.

“This publication also marks an important milestone as a key action from our National Strategy for Economic Transformation, helping maintain Scotland’s excellent reputation as a world-class entrepreneurial nation. I am confident it will lead to more students going on to found startups or taking up employment with one of our growing businesses, helping them develop and grow while retaining skills and talent in Scotland.”

Professor Little said: “What was striking in researching world-class entrepreneurial campuses around the globe was the significant regional economic growth they generated. The main factors being a more focused entrepreneurial mindset among faculty and students and a more mature engagement with industry.

“Their students don’t just get a degree and go elsewhere, they stay, build businesses, creating a virtuous cycle of growth. We must translate these lessons for the benefit of all in Scotland.”

Mr Tuffee added: “Scotland has an incredible opportunity to scale the socio-economic impact of its academic institutions by inspiring and supporting a new generation of entrepreneurs. We need to normalize entrepreneurship as a valid career path.

“We can create the conditions that underpin this acceleration by bringing together successful entrepreneurs with students and staff and aligning funding and physical support cross our regions. This is a 10-year strategy but we have to start now.”

The Entrepreneurial Campus report is available on the Scottish Government website. Some of the successful international institutions identified as global exemplars for Scotland to follow include Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Aalto University, the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and Stanford.

The report states: “Students attend institutions like MIT not just to learn, but to found a business. In doing this, on graduating (or maybe not graduating!), they often remain in the local area and leverage the facilities and support infrastructure offered by their institution and feeding back into the community.”