Why faculty should be allowed to engage in Entrepreneurial Activities.

Why faculty should be allowed to engage in Entrepreneurial Activities.

Let me start this blog with a statement made by one of the officer at meeting hold by Education Department, Government of Gujarat few years back.

“In most of the institution, faculty teaches subject of Entrrpreneurship who never tested Entrepreneurship in their life.”  I am sure most of the reader of this blog will agree with this statement made.

I know very institutions in India having faculty with experience in entrepreneurship field having theoretical and practical exposure both. Our own examples being a faculty connect to the students and they are convinced about the statement made by them as shows the authenticity. Faculty having entrepreneurial mindset preaches what they practice. Getting experienced faculty like this not feasible for all institution. To deal with this situation, there is a strong requirement for building entrepreneurial culture for faculty members at the institute level. It is sorry state of affairs when a institute does not take entrepreneurial activities, initiatives by a faculty in right spirit and many times taken in wrong sense. This entrepreneurial mindset or skills of the said faculty member will ultimately benefitting to the students and to the institution. Entrepreneurial mindset surely reflects in teaching, research and training at the institute level that I personally feel and have experienced in last few years.  In most of the institution, faculties are appointed as conveners/coordinators are appointed for Entrepreneurial Cell/Centre/Incubation Centre etc. who are not having any inclination towards meeting the objective of the cell/centre. This situation really defeats the purpose. I know some of the institutions in Gujarat which have self motivated team, not just doing job for the sake of it. Because of this ecosystem, they stand in top list in startup ecosystem ranking and received many accolades in last few years.

Let’s discuss some of the latest developments which will address above situation.

In 2017, Kerala Government gave green signal to a proposal of the state Startup Mission to accord sabbatical leave to the faculty members of all colleges who intend to establish startups.[1]

National Innovation and Startup Policy 2019 for Students and Faculty (A guiding Framework for Higher Education Institutions)[2]
Point No 7. Norms for faculty startups

a. For better coordination of the entrepreneurial activities, norms for faculty to do startups should be created by the institutes. Only those technologies should be taken for faculty startups which originate from within the same institute. 
i. Role of faculty may vary from being an owner/ direct promoter, mentor, consultant or as on-board member of the startup. 
ii. Institutes should work on developing a policy on 'conflict of interests' to ensure that the regular duties of the faculty don’t suffer owing to his/her involvement in the startup activities. 
iii. Faculty startup may consist of faculty members alone or with students or with faculty of other institutes or with alumni or with other entrepreneurs. 

b. In case the faculty/ staff holds the executive or managerial position for more than three months in a startup, they will go on sabbatical/ leave without pay/ utilize existing leave.

c. Faculty must clearly separate and distinguish on-going research at the institute from the work conducted at the startup/ company. 

d. In case of selection of a faculty start up by an outside national or international accelerator, a maximum leave (as sabbatical/ existing leave/ unpaid leave/ casual leave/ earned leave) of one semester/ year (or even more depending upon the decision of review committee constituted by the institute) may be permitted to the faculty. 

e. Faculty must not accept gifts from the startup. 

f. Faculty must not involve research staff or other staff of institute in activities at the startup and vice-versa.

g. Human subject related research in startup should get clearance from ethics committee of the institution.

It seems above guidelines inspired by Scheme of Faculty Associated Start-up at Standford University. Faculty-Associated Start-up (Start-ups) is defined as a company where the original intellectual property originates with the faculty, where the faculty is a founder and has a significant equity position in the company, and often has an influential role in determining the direction of the company. [3]

In addition to above we should also see concept of Intrapreneurship. Intrapreneur is the person from within the organization who involve himself in entrepreneurial activities in the organisation entrusted by the organisation to have innovation more productivity in the system. For that the person also incentivized, due credit is given to them. Promoting this kind of culture in the organization, there will surely be an apprehension, what if that person leaves. This risk being an institution/organization you have to take well into consideration. But think other way round, if that person stays with you for few years and contribute significantly compared to other people remain there with the institution for many years and do not contribute significantly.

I strongly suggest to have a Faculty Startup & Innovation Policy like Student Startups & Innovation Policy initiated by Education Department, Govt. of Gujarat in the year 2017. In year 2019, IIT Kanpur came up with Faculty Entrepreneurship Policy [5] to promote faculty led Startups being on the board of such companies in the capacity of Director, Chairman, Promoter or any such role subject to said policy. IIT Kanpur encourages and prioritizes the Companies in the following order. a. Companies jointly owned by the faculty members and/or graduating students/alumni (along with possible others). b. Companies owned by the faculty members (one or many) along with possible others.

At the end I will conclude stating that if an organization wants good result from its employees, then see his/her true potential and try to realize that rather than dictating own mandate on them which will ultimately will not be fruitful. There are pros and cons of any initiative/mechanism but try this out.
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