Jon Eckhardt, associate professor of management and human resources and Discovery Fellow, presented his research on student entrepreneurship entitled “University Degrees and Entrepreneurship – A US Perspective from a US University” at an international conference in December 2019.
The AlmaLaurea – Unioncamere Conference invited scholars to Rome, Italy to announce the availability of new research database on entrepreneurship in Italy. Scholars were invited to provide a global context on the new database. The conference brought together academics dedicated to improving the prevalence and success of student entrepreneurs as well as advancing the understanding of student entrepreneurship by contributing to academic research.
While most academic research involving universities and entrepreneurship focuses on the commercialization of university discovered intellectual property, the focus of this meeting was to examine scholarly findings on what characteristics and experiences make some students more inclined toward entrepreneurship.
“Examining both the US and European Union research on the subject reiterated how understudied this area is and demonstrates the need for additional studies,” said Jon. “This conference was an important step to build relationships with the few other universities that are looking into the same types of questions that we are. Faculty at the Università di Bologna are doing great work in this area and the new data announced at the conference will help us better understand factors that drive entrepreneurship in Italy. “
Jon presented his team’s survey research that provided a benchmark for student entrepreneurship at UW-Madison. From 2015 to 2017 the survey collected over 23,800 responses across all majors at UW-Madison. 42% of the self-reported entrepreneurs were from non-STEM majors. Students currently working at a company less than five years old ranged between 497 and 527 students. In 2017 the number of students that expressed interest in joining a startup team was 1,937. The highest reported entrepreneurial interest was seen among male graduate students with 42.7% expressing their intention to start a business at some point in their career and 3.8% currently operating their own business. The survey indicates that women are much less likely to self-report being entrepreneurs or being interested in entrepreneurship. Jon’s team is working with experts to research this issue further.
This research was funded by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, American Family Insurance, and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. As a continuation of this survey research, Jon is now studying ways university entrepreneurial ecosystems can drive economic growth.
“Students represent untapped potential for university-based entrepreneurship,” Jon added. “Our work is focused on using data to identify the best ways for universities to foster this talent.”