– responsible for implementing the communication and dissemination activities in SMART4FUTURE – conducted a series of interviews with the project partners.
Introducing National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (NaUKMA): a classical university in Ukraine which has both an outstanding history and the innovative future. With 400 years of development, NaUKMA is constantly improving to successfully hold the leading positions on the Employers’ choice list in Ukraine. NaUKMA has 6 faculties and more than 3,500 students, 800 of them in the Faculty of Economics. The Marketing and Business Management Department is one of the faculty’s most dynamic departments. Through its Centre for Analytics and Business Modelling of Sustainable Development, it supports entrepreneurial and innovation activities of students and staff. One of the projects – The Mohyla Open Hackathon – fosters the creative and entrepreneurial efforts of students and youth and creates conditions for the development of their intellectual potential in SDG area.
Hello Kateryna and Nina! Thank you for this opportunity to meet you and to talk about SMART4FUTURE. To kick-off, could you give us, in your own words, a short introduction to NaUKMA, and your role there?
NaUKMA is one of the leading Universities in Ukraine and the first choice of many students and employers. It is always at the forefront of innovation in education and societal change. Students come to NaUKMA to study History and Politology, IT, Chemistry, Biology, Finance, Economics, Marketing and Management. That is where they meet us – at the Faculty of Economics, Marketing and Management department. I am the Head of this department, and Nina is a leading professor and the head of our Centre for Analytics and Business Modelling of Sustainable Development. We established it just before the war in 2021 and utilize its resources to support our students and academic staff in their research and innovation activities.
To someone reading this who is still not familiar with SMART4FUTURE, how would you describe it in simple terms, and how do you distinguish it from other projects or initiatives?
At NaUKMA, we joint the SMART4FUTURE project only this year as part of the initiative from the European Institute of Technology to support Ukraine. And what we have found is a professional team from organizations across Europe who are successfully working together to empower universities as creators of technologically advanced innovations. The consortium includes six universities from Croatia, Turkey, Italy, Poland, and Ukraine, all experienced players in their local innovation ecosystems. They are eager to grow and expand their initiatives, share their knowledge and experience in educating and mentoring entrepreneurs-to-be among students and university staff. The set of actions within the project includes education materials, mentoring sessions, networking events and start-up competitions – all aimed at creating high-tech and deep-tech solutions to solve local and global problems.
What I would like to emphasize about the SMART4FUTURE is its special focus on the entrepreneurial failure. While it might sound discouraging, failure is an essential part of the entrepreneurial journey that leads to success. And the skill set provided through the
SMART4FUTURE course “How to fail successfully” is definitely a valuable impact for every entrepreneur.
NaUKMA will be involved in many of the SMART4FUTURE activities, one of them being the education and training programmes. Which gains are expected through these learning materials at a local, regional, and national level?
The work we are doing within the project is timely for Ukraine and its entrepreneurial ecosystem at all levels. The ongoing war poses challenges that require technological solutions to bring us closer to victory. Many initiatives have been launched by the state through the Ukrainian Startup Fund or by private venture funds like 7Wings or Startup Wise Guys to invest in the development of technological startups. The EIC4Ukraine program has also announced the winner, with the total of 12 million euros in grants to be allocated among Ukrainian deep tech startups through the Seeds of Bravery consortium. All these initiatives and opportunities require entrepreneurs who are ready to take risk, invest their time and expertise to create value.
Through its education and training program, SMART4FUTURE will encourage students and university staff to take on this new role, while also equipping teachers with the up-to-date techniques and materials. At NaUKMA, we are already working with other universities in Ukraine to disseminate the value generated by SMART4FUTURE among our colleagues at Odessa National Polytechnic Universities, National Technical University “Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute”, Zaporizhia National University. Together with the Kyiv Academic University, we will be working on mentoring the deep tech startups and research teams from the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine to obtain the mentioned above grants and gain access to other opportunities.
What are you personally most enthusiastic about achieving during SMART4FUTURE?
As the Marketing and Business management department, we are accustomed to teaching others how to do business. That’s what we do daily and really enjoy the process. However, this project presents an opportunity for us to go beyond that and to provide students with extended support on their path to success. They will have access to a wide network of other student entrepreneurs and mentors who will encourage and inspire them, giving them a better chance of achieving their goals.
How important do you find your participation in the SMART4FUTURE project?
SMART4FUTURE is an excellent opportunity to integrate Kyiv-Mohyla Academy into the European innovation ecosystem. It is the boost we needed to support the entrepreneurial initiatives of our Centre for Analytics and Business Modelling of Sustainable Development. Its achievements, gained in 2021, the first conducted hackathons and SME incubation programs were at risk after the February 24, 2022. But now, being the part of the SMART4FUTURE, we have the resources and partners to move forward with renewed confidence.
NaUKMA will also participate in conducting student bootcamps. What will be your role in this activity and what should students gain from this experience?
As the Head of the Center for Analytics and Business Modelling of Sustainable Development, I will be heavily involved in organizing this bootcamp in Ukraine. We have secured a preliminary agreement from the Kyiv Academic University to be our partner and are actively seeking other partners from the academic and business sectors. This bootcamp presents the valuable opportunity for students to pitch their ideas to potential investors and receive feedback form the experienced entrepreneurs and business mentors from across Europe. Perhaps one of our teams will secure the next grant from Seeds of Bravery or EIC, or even become the next Ukrainian Unicorn.