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How TU Graz fosters entrepreneurship and innovation

Graz, Austria's second largest city, has a growing and vibrant start-up ecosystem, and students are definitely at its core. (Image source: Fotogenia – TU Graz)

If you are a student who wants to study abroad in a technical field and benefit from a variety of innovation and entrepreneurship programmes, the Austrian city of Graz is the place to be. Let me tell you.

Graz has a growing and vibrant start-up ecosystem, and students are definitely at its core. With over 60,000 students, Graz has a strong university presence but when I came to Graz, Austria, from my home country of Albania to study Software Engineering and Management at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz), I was surprised by the student-friendly start-up ecosystem existing in Graz. The city boasts a variety of resources for aspiring entrepreneurs, including co-working spaces, incubators, accelerators, and funding opportunities. TU Graz also has a strong culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, and therefore offers a whole range of start-up programmes for students that aim to thrive in entrepreneurship, technology and sustainability among other things. In this article, we will take a closer look at entrepreneurship and start-up courses offered by TU Graz, as well as pre-incubation opportunities for student start-ups. Keep on reading to discover together why this city has become a hotspot for student start-ups and student entrepreneurs.

Courses and initiatives for student entrepreneurs

TU Graz offers different entrepreneurship, business and innovation courses that are designed to help and support students with skills and knowledge they need to become successful entrepreneurs. These courses are available to all students regardless of their field of study. Apart from lectures and seminars, TU Graz also offers project-courses and initiatives such as Product Innovation or Spinnovation.

Product Innovation Project

The Product Innovation course, offered by the Institute of Innovation and Industrial Management at TU Graz, focuses on development of new innovative products and services. The course involves key concepts of product innovation such as ideation, design thinking, user-centred design and prototyping. Students in the Product Innovation course are grouped in teams and are given a challenge from an industry partner. They work for two semesters on the challenge by identifying and evaluating market opportunities, generating and evaluating new product ideas and creating a product development plan.

In the "Product Innovation" project, teams of students gain first-hand experience in product development. (Image source: Lunghammer – TU Graz)

The students also get the chance to gain hands-on experience in prototyping and learn how to develop market strategies for their product. Overall this course is a great opportunity for students that want to gain experience in entrepreneurship, project management, product development and innovation. The skills and knowledge gained from this course are also a great starting point for students that want to start their own business in the near future.

The Product Innovation course at TU Graz focuses on the development of innovative products and services

SpInnovation project

Based on TU Graz data, a total of 522 patents were issued in Styria in 2020 and some of these patents were registered by TU Graz itself. Unfortunately, not all of the patents have found a practical application and this is why the SpInnovation initiative by TU Graz was created. Offered by the Institute of Innovation and Industrial Management as well, this initiative is designed to support the development of spin-off companies based on patents registered by TU Graz. Students in this course work in interdisciplinary teams, investigating the patent-protected technologies and creating a business case. They take advantage of problem-solving, innovation and entrepreneurship workshops by researchers, lecturers and start-up experts. Using the end results, students are able to start up their companies based on a TU Graz patent. 

Using the skills acquired in the SpInnovation project, students are able to start up their companies based on a TU Graz patent.

Incubators and accelerators for student start-ups

Start-up Garage: for early stage start-ups

TU Graz also supports start-up programmes such as the Start-up Garage. The Start-up Garage, which considers itself as a marketplace for early stage companies, is a leading academic accelerator programme for students and researchers, focusing on development and validation of the start-up idea, as well as scaling and growth. The programme offers a wide range of measures starting from curriculum and mentorship and ranging to co-working spaces and legal and financial advice.

Once a semester, selected teams of students develop their ideas for a business model in the Gründungsgarage. (Image source: pressmaster – Fotolia)

The academic accelerator programme Start-up Garage has proved to be a great starting point for start-ups to validate their business ideas, develop a business and market plan before joining a bigger incubation or acceleration programme.

Incubators for validated business models

As previously mentioned, there also very good incubators and accelerators in Graz such as Science Park Graz, next-incubator and Social Business Hub Styria that look for start-ups that have already got a validated business model but are still in the very first steps of founding their start-ups. Maybe we can take a deeper look at such incubators in another article.

Students who want to develop climate protection projects as start-ups can submit their ideas to the Green Tech Summer Graz. (Image source: guy – AdobeStock)

Exciting start-up events in Graz

Talking about student start-ups and innovation, there are two exciting events happening in Graz in the next few months: the Fifteen Seconds Festival and Green Tech Summer.
The Fifteen Seconds Festival is an annual entrepreneurship and innovation event held in Graz where start-ups, students, companies, innovators and creators come together to share their entrepreneurial journeys, listen to amazing speakers and participate in different workshops. This year’s event will be held on 15th to 16th June in Stadthalle Graz.
Green Tech Summer 2023 is a programme dedicated to all students studying in an Austrian university who want to found a business this summer instead of doing an internship. If you have an idea for a climate protection start-up, find out more on the Green Tech Summer website (German).

If you are a student who wants to study abroad in a technical field and benefit from multiple innovation and entrepreneurship programmes, Graz is definitely the right city for you. TU Graz is at the forefront of the student start-up ecosystem in Graz and is committed to innovation and sustainability by offering a range of resources for student entrepreneurs. Take a look at the Bachelor's and Master's degree programmes at TU Graz to find out if the degree programme you are interested in is offered there.

Go to the “Founders at TU Graz” website to find out how Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) supports and encourages its founders with targeted services.

Lisbora Likaj is an Albanian Software Engineering and Management Master's student at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz). She has a strong affinity to entrepreneurship, innovation and technology. As an international student ambassador, she actively supports and encourages students to embark a new international educational journey at TU Graz.
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