In the face of increasing uncertainties, the fast pace of technological innovations, and global challenges such as climate change, COVID-19, and competitive geopolitics, the landscape of higher education is altering at a rapid pace. To tackle these challenges and ensure relevance and impact, Chulalongkorn University has initiated an Entrepreneurial Universities Framework, which focuses on creating an Integrated Interdisciplinary Partnership Platform.
Unveiling the Entrepreneurial Innovations portfolio developed on this platform, Associate Professor Dr. Natcha Thawesaengskulthai, Vice President for Strategic Planning, Innovation and Global Engagement at Chulalongkorn University, revealed that the Chulalongkorn entrepreneurial ecosystem has already accumulated an impressive portfolio of 181 innovations. One third of these innovations have already entered the market. Another nine products are at the production stage, while 28 are at the prototype stage.
The innovations touch on various sectors, including health and well-being, education, decent work and economic growth, and sustainable cities and communities.
“What is significant is that the array of innovations has grown every year since it was launched in 2017,” says Dr. Natcha. The first year saw 54 innovations being proposed, with two reaching the product stage. This year, of 181 innovations, 56 are already in the market, while 14 have reached the market growth stage.
The combination of the CU Innovation Hub, Siam Innovation District, the University Technology Center, and the launch of a Bachelor’s of Arts and Science in Integrated Innovation (BAScii) in the Chulalongkorn School of Integrated Innovation (ScII) has contributed immensely towards this spectacular growth.
“The Entrepreneurial Universities Framework works along an entire continuum, which begins with universities and ends with citizens but takes in industry, government, private and public sector organizations, and communities,” says Dr. Natcha. This University-Industry-Government-Organization-Community-Citizen continuum leverages universities’ academic and research skills while focusing on socioeconomic impacts for the citizenry. “This is where the entrepreneurial framework comes into play,” adds Dr. Natcha.
One example is the creation of ViaBus, a real-time public bus tracking and navigation application for use around metropolitan Bangkok. The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to a string of innovations, including the Chula Strip Test, a nasal protection spray, developing robots for patient care, and several online and mobile applications.
This entrepreneurial venture extends the role of higher education from mere educator to knowledge creator, societal problem-solver, innovator, connector, and agent of change, says Dr. Natcha, bringing together individualized learning preferences, real-world experience and skills, global exposure, and life-long learning for students.
On the organizational side, it ropes in the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation (MHESI) and the Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council (NXPO) and connects them to the Siam Innovation District and the Chulalongkorn Innovation Hub, the three pillars of the latter being entrepreneurship development, research to commercial, and community development.
Another way of upscaling innovation was bringing together 118 teams of student innovators on one platform. In August this year, a challenge called Engaging Our Future went beyond Thailand and brought together student innovators from 26 countries, an illustration of how innovation can transcend national boundaries.