Student entrepreneurship at Université Paris-Saclay
(This article was originally published in L'Édition n°16)
Increasing numbers of students are becoming involved in entrepreneurship, whether they are motivated by sheer curiosity, want to take part in a meaningful field or have a genuine business project. In order to best respond to these new aspirations, Université Paris-Saclay, its constituent faculties and institutes, Grandes Écoles, and associate institutions are providing several options for students to discover and/or learn about entrepreneurship throughout their courses.
When students were asked about their professional aspirations, nearly 40% of them mentioned entrepreneurship as a possible option during the course of their career. “Today’s generation sees entrepreneurship as an important option to pursue in an uncertain economic climate,” points out Pascal Corbel, the Entrepreneurship Coordinator at Université Paris-Saclay. With this in mind, for several years, the University has been increasing its initiatives to support this trend as effectively as possible. Entrepreneurship is now present at all levels within the University through initiation courses, degree programmes and specific courses of study, with mentors to act as guides.
Courses to discover entrepreneurship
Being tempted by an entrepreneurial adventure is one thing. Understanding the nuts and bolts of it is another. The Maturaction programme was launched in 2019 to enable students to take this step and familiarise themselves with the process of becoming an entrepreneur. “The idea is to offer groups with different profiles and levels of study the opportunity to test their entrepreneurial flair by giving them the chance to manage innovative research projects, based on real-life cases from the University’s laboratories,” explains Pascal Corbel. During evening workshops, students are asked to think about possible industrial applications, based on scientific results, and assess their potential in teams.
In the University’s Grandes Écoles, raising awareness about entrepreneurship among student engineers also starts very early, often as soon as the first year. This can be as part of hackathons, like at the Institut d’Optique Graduate School, or during the Startup week at CentraleSupélec.
Degree programmes for students at Université Paris-Saclay
The University offers several study options for students who are already aware of entrepreneurship and wish to go further. A student in full-time academic or continuing education programmes, with or without a business project, can study one of four university degrees (Entrepreneurship; Creation and Development of Innovative Start-ups; Entrepreneurship, Law, Digital; Intrapreneurship) during in-person or remote evening classes and learn how to design, launch or develop a business.
In the 3rd year (L3), students who already have an entrepreneurial project can opt for the vocational degree in Management and Administration of Organisations at the Sceaux Technical Institute (IUT), which takes on 24 students each year. “Our objective is to teach students about the different aspects of business creation and put them in touch with the entrepreneurial community at Paris-Saclay. In short, to support them as closely as possible until they take their first steps!” explains Nathalie Claret, who jointly manages the degree course.
At a higher level, those who are looking to specialise in entrepreneurship-related professions can opt for the Master’s degree in Strategic Management, and specialise in Entrepreneurship and Innovative Project Management at the Jean Monnet Faculty (Law, Economics and Management), which can be studied remotely. “At the end of the course, they will either set up their own business or take up positions as innovation managers or consultants in support organisations for entrepreneurs,” explains Pascal Corbel, who manages the Master’s course.
Another option for entrepreneurs who have already graduated is to study for an interinstitutional student entrepreneur degree (D2E), run by the Pépite PEIPS network of young entrepreneurs in the Paris-Saclay region. It provides graduates with an individual entrepreneurial support programme while allowing them to enjoy the benefits of the French national student entrepreneur status. “Designed as a pre-incubator programme, the D2E promotes action-based learning. It equips students with skills which are useful for business creation, but which can also be used in companies,” explains Florence Law, Head of the D2E programme.
PhD candidates who want to learn how to promote their research and be entrepreneurial can study the Doctor’Preneuriales course. Its modules are taught by innovation and business creation professionals from the University and its partners.
Courses of study for engineering students at the University’s Grandes Écoles
The University’s Grandes Écoles are often forerunners in entrepreneurship. They also offer specific entrepreneurship courses or programmes, such as the Itinéraire Entrepreneuriat course at AgroParisTech, which offers students support for a business creation project or a new transferable activity while pursuing their studies. These Grandes Écoles go as far as to offer integrated incubators, such as the Food In’Lab at AgroParisTech.
Since 2006, students at the Institut d’Optique have been able to join the Innovation- Entrepreneurs course (FIE) in their second year. “Students are put in charge of very real technological business projects. They have weekly support, over periods of several weeks, at one of our three entrepreneurial ‘503’ centres, as well as the guidance of some fifty tutors to breathe life into their project as a team. It is a powerful experience and one from which they emerge transformed,” explains David Olivier Bouchez, Head of the FIE programme.
At CentraleSupélec, in addition to the Entrepreneurship course which can be accessed in the first year, students in their third year can opt to join the long-standing Entrepreneurship programme created in 2000, or the new Innovation and Intrapreneurship course launched in 2020. “Aside from educating them, the aim is to place our students at the heart of a community of entrepreneurs, investment funds, a fablab and an incubator, etc., and to best prepare them for the future,” says Jean-François Galloüin, a professor at CentraleSupélec.