Filip Burgelman is an Entrepreneurship Education Architect, EntreComp Champion and Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Thomas More University of Applied Sciences in Mechelen, Belgium.

Filip’s intervention is the ‘’Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship’’ elective course at Thomas More, where third-year students from the bachelor’s degree programs in interior design and business management work together in an interdisciplinary setting.

Within the span of a semester (13 weeks) students learn to understand and combine theories, concepts, and methods rooted in both disciplines to foster new learning and knowledge and thus providing crucial insights into the innovation required to meet the challenges of contemporary ‘wicked problems’. During this process, interdisciplinary teams are created that organise themselves as lean start-ups. An external challenge owner presents a wicked problem, linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and students are instructed to come up with an innovative solution from idea to proof of concept. The teams are self-managed and guided by a tool book containing common business innovation tools such as the lean canvas, customer journey map, value innovation canvas and business model canvas.

Students are provided with information about their problem through a mix of didactic methods; including flipped classroom, lectures, field visits and round table conversations from teachers and coaches from different disciplines. And the problem is tackled by simulating the creative and development process of product innovation in a lean start-up. The process starts with a hackathon. The teams then go through the iterative steps of a lean start up process: build, measure, learn. The trajectory ends with a pitch of a proof of concept.

With this course Filip aims to demonstrate how the creative and economic sectors can work together to benefit and enhance each other. Furthermore, it is necessary for students to learn to look ‘over the wall’ of their discipline to be better prepared to enter the multi-facetted context of later professional life. The course aims to unlock integrative learning, which builds student’s ability to make connections among ideas and experiences, across the curriculum and into other disciplines, to synthesize and transfer learning to new situations within and beyond campus. During the process, students learn from each other. For example, students from the design course receive knowledge regarding the circular economy, or drafting a business model canvas instructed by their peers from business administration. Conversely, design students instruct their peers with insights and skills regarding design thinking, user experience design and other creative thinking processes.

Using this method, students from both disciplines integrate theories, methods and concepts to jointly devise innovative solutions that are linked to major societal challenges as formulated in the SDGs. The program therefore has the additional aim of tapping into awareness and commitment among students to become active participants in this global commitment to make the world a better place.

At the end of the programme, all products, activities, insights and lessons learned are bundled in the tool book, where each student individually reflects on what has been learned in terms of the problem definition, methods, entrepreneurial competencies, interdisciplinary collaboration and the extent to which integrative learning has taken place.

An example of a student project

Inspired by the students’ commitment to making their learning environment more sustainable, the 2023-24 cohort of students developed the prototype of a Green Office. A Green Office is a platform run by students with the goal of making the university more sustainable from within. As a sustainability hub, the Green Office connects students, teachers, researchers, staff and external partners to experiment, develop and test ideas to make the institution more sustainable. After the finalisation of the student project, the Green Office and all its operational processes continue to exist. A sustainable continuation process has created for this initiative where the successive cohorts continue the proper functioning of the ‘business’ of the Green Office.

 

Read more about the initiative here.

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Edited by Tasha Day (UIIN)