'Re-thinking entrepreneurship education in undergraduate engineering curricula'

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The importance of entrepreneurship teaching within engineering education is widely recognized by the engineering community and by government. There is however no consensus on how best to enthuse and engage engineering students in entrepreneurship studies and many of them struggle to see the relevance of the subject within the curriculum, particularly at the undergraduate study stage (Morgan and O’Gorman, 2017). Within existing engineering curricula, entrepreneurship teaching tends to be an ‘add-on’ activity, and is usually delivered within the subject discipline of ‘Design’ where engineering educators link it to the innovation and design of new products.

Preliminary findings of a study carried out at Ulster University to explore students’ perceptions of entrepreneurship education identified that engineering students’ understanding of the term ‘entrepreneur’ was beclouded with celebrity entrepreneurs which we argue may thwart the students’ self-belief and desire to develop their entrepreneurial attitudes and skills during their undergraduate engineering studies.

Previous work (Cummins et al, 2021) identified that entrepreneurship teaching was most effective when ‘embedded and not inserted’ in curricula, and this current work examines an approach where engineering students are introduced to entrepreneurship in its broadest sense, that is, as a means of value creation (Voldsund et al, 2020) or as ‘adding value’.

This paper proposes that entrepreneurship teaching could be more effectively embedded in engineering curricula by explicitly linking it to Lean Systems thinking (Womac, 1992). Lean Systems thinking is an important and well-recognized subject area within industrial engineering curricula and requires the value stream mapping of activities and processes to highlight all ‘value-added’ and ‘non-value added’ activities and processes within any system. A two-pronged plan of action can then be developed to eliminate wasteful (i.e. non-value added) activities, and to enhance value added activities. Whilst the identification and elimination of the non-value added activities and processes, commonly referred to as the ‘seven deadly wastes’ (Hill, 2018), is taught mainly through modules in manufacturing systems or quality improvement, there is no clear consensus among engineering curriculum designers on how to ‘design in’ opportunities to add value. This work proposes that entrepreneurship studies should be embedded in Lean Systems modules to provide students with opportunities to develop their understanding of value creation, so that they can identify with and appreciate the relevance of it within their engineering programmes.

The presentation of entrepreneurship education to engineering students within the familiar pedagogic framework of Lean Systems thinking, provides educators with an established and accepted scaffold to use for the development of engineering students’ entrepreneurial attitudes and skills throughout their curriculum.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe 38th International Manufacturing Conference Proceedings
Number of pages10
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 31 May 2022
Event38th International Manufacturing Conference - University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 30 Aug 202231 Aug 2022
Conference number: 38


Conference38th International Manufacturing Conference
Abbreviated titleIMC
Internet address


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