Issues and Newness
Edited by Alain Fayolle
Chapter 11: Developing an Entrepreneurial Spirit Among Engineering College Students: What are the Educational Factors?
Caroline Verzat and Rémi Bachelet Although engineers are often associated with innovation, they tend to create far fewer businesses than business schools graduates (Fayolle, 2001). Most noticeably, the career model for French engineers has for a long time been orientated towards technical or managerial functions within large companies (Bouffartigue, 1994). Considering the importance of innovative business creation in the economy, the North Region in France initiated a research programme to study entrepreneurship education for engineers. Our research is carried out within the framework called ‘Pôle Régional de Recherche sur l’Entrepreneuriat’ set up by Conseil Régional du Nord Pas de Calais. The initial question was to find out how to promote an entrepreneurial spirit among new engineers and find the factors that can be influential. Arguably, the most widely recognized factor favouring entrepreneurship is family background, but this is typically a factor that cannot be influenced by education. Another advanced approach is based on the identification of entrepreneurial fitness and skills (Carter et al., 1995; Gartner, 1988; Lorrain et al., 1998), but this approach does not make it possible to predict the occurrence of the phenomenon or to detect entrepreneurs. More interestingly for us, a number of authors emphasize the part to be played by the educational system in the promotion of an ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ prior to the intention to set up a business (Albert and Marion, 1997; Fayolle, 2000). Our own experience of teaching grande école engineers at Ecole Centrale de Lille shows that very few...
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