Breaking the Mould: How the New MSc in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Imparts Future-Citizen Skills
By the SMU Digital Marketing Team
In an economic era dominated by billionaires the likes of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, entrepreneurship often evokes images of charismatic individuals, revered for their ability to birth groundbreaking ideas and galvanise teams around a singular vision. In reality, building a business goes far beyond a cult of personality and a niche idea for a startup.
Such romanticised notions of entrepreneurship belie the multifaceted nature of the discipline, and the diverse set of skills and competencies it demands. Successful entrepreneurship calls for diverse skillsets that empower a leader to face the challenges of an unpredictable, constantly changing world head-on.
Professor David Gomulya, Academic Director, SMU Master of Science in Entrepreneurship and Innovation
“You define what you want to be. Do not constrain yourself to the typical avenues. The skills we give you let you do much more beyond simply starting a company. Even mature companies can benefit from innovation.”
For those looking to break the mould and gain an entrepreneurial mindset, the MEI programme is designed to equip graduates with future-citizen skills to manage uncertainties and create new opportunities in the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship and innovation.
The evolution of the programme is to foster purpose-driven talent that can create new growth opportunities for Singapore and beyond, while also solving pressing real-world problems. It is designed to provide students with the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to become agents of change, capable of driving innovation and making a positive impact in the world.
“In the past, it was called Master of Science in Innovation,” as Prof Gomulya explains during an MEI information session.
“But both sides of the coin are equally important. You must identify the problem for which you need innovation, or the solution. And entrepreneurship is about identifying pain points or opportunities.”
The upward trend of entrepreneurship
The trend of being an entrepreneur and starting one’s own business is gaining immense popularity in Asia, as evidenced by the increasing trend of investment by angel investors, venture capitalists, and governments in the region, shares Prof Gomulya.
This growing wave of entrepreneurship investment is creating a vibrant ecosystem that encourages the growth and development of innovative businesses. Despite the opportunities that exist for today’s budding entrepreneurs, however, there are many skills that need to be honed to be a successful entrepreneur.
“No one knows what the future will bring,” explains Prof Gomulya.
“But we want to nurture individuals who, regardless of what the future throws at us, are well equipped to face the challenges.”
“No one knows what the future will bring.”
This concept of future-proofing your ability to work, or as Prof Gomulya refers to it, “future-citizen skills”, was identified in a 2021 study by global management consulting firm McKinsey. A series of foundational skills is identified across four categories; cognitive skills like critical thinking, interpersonal skills to inspire trust and collaboration, self-leadership skills, and digital skills.
SMU aims to create an ideal setting to nurture MEI graduates in skills across all four categories. With a curriculum that recognises the dual importance of both innovation and entrepreneurship, candidates will complete the programme well-equipped to thrive, whether in starting their own businesses or using the entrepreneurial mindset in their workplace to excel.
What sets this programme apart, shares Prof Gomulya, is its focus on the simultaneous integration of coursework and hands-on experience of venture building. With these parallel tracks, what you learn in the classroom is immediately put into practice as you build a new business or consult for a venture, a method that strengthens the learning outcome.
A safe environment to learn to succeed
A unique aspect of the MEI curriculum is that the dual tracks of classroom learning and practical hands-on experience run simultaneously throughout the course of the programme. While core modules and electives are taught in the classroom, the unique Venture Building Experience (VBE) component differentiates this programme from the rest in the market.
As part of VBE, candidates can form their own team and pursue a project of their own choosing to get a taste of running an actual start-up, which makes this the perfect test bed for budding entrepreneurs to test out actual business ideas. Alternatively, candidates can choose to engage as a consultant to help build and grow an existing start-up from a pool of ventures offered by industry collaborators such as Temasek Life Sciences Accelerator (TLA) and Origgin. Students who choose such ventures for their VBE will have the exciting and unique opportunity to work with subject matter experts, and provide business consultancy for their innovations.
“We want to teach people how to fish. If you happen not to catch one today, that is fine. But you should try your earnest to learn.”
Over the course of one year, each team will see a venture through from basic ideation to developing a go-to-market strategy, by which point the venture might be considered ready for launch in a real-world situation. The idea, explains Prof Gomulya, is for candidates to gain experience in developing their idea during this one-year period—a period which he feels is the bare minimum for candidates to be able to say they have given it their best shot.
“You can change your idea, you can even fail, as long as you get up again and do not stop trying to develop this idea in different ways during the year,” says Prof Gomulya.
“What we want is for you to push yourself to pursue this venture for one full year. Your results are not decided based solely on whether you can come up with a successful venture. Rather, your results are from you trying—giving your attempt a fair shot; and the experience you have gained along the way, even from failure. We want to teach people how to fish. If you happen not to catch one today, that is fine. But you should try your earnest to learn.”
A programme that sets out to help candidates flourish
The MEI programme offers several noteworthy benefits to candidates, providing them with every opportunity to succeed. Specifically, students who are tasked with developing a prototype product for their projects will have access to an equity-free prototyping budget funded by SMU.
With a field like entrepreneurship and innovation, excellent ideas and persons who do not fall squarely into the box are often the very best candidates for success.
Candidates can also look forward to accessing a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem through SMU. Key partners such as industry leaders, mentors, and even global institutions such as TLA and Origgin will be a part of the learning journey to help candidates flourish and be successful. Ventures that are developed successfully during MEI will further be considered for SMU’s Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship’s (IIE) BIG Incubation Programme—a four-month incubation programme designed to help early-stage founders validate their product and get ready for seed investment. Foreign students who managed to get their projects incubated in IIE also stand a better chance to obtain EntrePass, a work pass intended for serial entrepreneurs, high-calibre innovators, and experienced investors looking to operate a business in Singapore that is venture-backed or owns innovative technologies.
While MEI has set out a list of requirements for applicants, Prof Gomulya encourages aspiring applicants with upstanding resumes that do not conventionally meet the requirements include such accomplishments on their application. After all, with a field like entrepreneurship and innovation, excellent ideas and persons who do not fall squarely into the box are often the very best candidates for success.
“I’m very excited about this programme,” Prof Gomulya concludes, buzzing with energy from his excitement.
“I hope you can view the SMU MEI as a starting point—a chance to position or reposition yourself to solve real world problems.”
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