20 Years of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at WU


The E&I institute is celebrating and it‘s success speaks for itself.

Close to 1,000 real-life projects with start-ups, SMEs, and multinationals, 3,500 entrepreneurial graduates, over 500 academic publications with over 30,000 citations, and 120 awards in research & teaching - the WU Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

New technologies, products, processes, organizational forms, and companies/start-ups create jobs and help humanity find innovative solutions to major challenges. Even though as far back as 20 years ago, business, society, and politics were all in agreement that entrepreneurial thinking and action were decisive factors for a country's prosperity and economic performance, entrepreneurship and innovation was still a little-known topic in Austria and even Europe.

WU as a pioneer in the German.speaking world

“WU has always stood for pioneering achievements and been at the forefront with the generation of new knowledge. As a responsible university, it is important to us to find the answers to the relevant questions of today and tomorrow and to make these answers accessible to the public,” says WU Rector Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger. In 2001, WU was one of the first universities in the German-speaking region to establish an endowed professorship for entrepreneurship and innovation. In addition to Bank Austria, the Austrian and Vienna Economic Chambers, the OeNB, and Berndorf AG also supported the endowed professorship. In October 2001, Nikolaus Franke, then a visiting professor at the renowned MIT, was appointed to the position. He and his initially small team built up the WU Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation with creativity and dedication. From the start, they focused on practical orientation, the link between business and technology, and international research cooperation with universities such as MIT and Harvard.

Portrait of Nikolaus Franke

A bridge between research and practice

“Innovation has to be experienced in practice – after all, if you want to learn to swim, you have to get into the water at some point,” says WU professor Nikolaus Franke. Which is why in the E&I project courses, students have the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge to real-life innovation problems. Initiatives such as the WU Entrepreneurship Center, Entrepreneurship Avenue (the largest entrepreneurship fair in Europe), the ECN Entrepreneurship Center Network (a cooperation platform of 24 Austrian universities and universities of applied sciences on the topic of entrepreneurship), and the Social Impact Award (an initiative to promote social entrepreneurship, now in 40 countries) also got their start at the institute.
 More than 3,500 graduates have impressive careers as start-ups and entrepreneurs in business, politics, and administration. Numerous former faculty members of the institute have remained in academia, teaching entrepreneurship and innovation as professors at renowned international universities such as the Copenhagen Business School, the Stockholm School of Economics, and the VU Amsterdam.“Since it was founded, the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has been a valuable bridge between research and business and prepares students to start their own businesses in the best possible way," says the Rector. Nikolaus Franke concludes, “The goal of the E&I Institute is to keep reinventing itself and to continue to get the message of the entrepreneurial mindset out to the world for another 20 years – for the benefit of science, business, and society.”

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