A boost for student enterprise

Entrepreneurship is attracting increasing numbers of students and young graduates. In Anglet, the creation of a hub at Arkinova dedicated to student entrepreneurs is set to support this trend. 

Value has nothing to do with age, and neither has the creation of a business. More and more young people are tempted by an adventure into entrepreneurship. According to the 2019 indicator for student entrepreneurship produced by Opinionway for the MOOVJEE (Movement for young people and student entrepreneurs), almost half the young people asked (school and university or college students), thought they would create or take over a business in the course of their professional life, that is, 9% more than in the previous survey of 2017. Among them, 20% are even hoping to do this by the end of their studies at the latest. And this enthusiasm is not only seen in surveys. At the University of Pau and Pays de l’Adour (UPPA), the number of projects has shot up in the 2020-2021 academic year. “We have registered 75 business creation projects, compared with 30 in the previous year. We are also seeing a marked interest in Teaching Units (UEs in their French acronym) concerned with raising awareness of entrepreneurship, which are open to all students from undergraduates to doctoral students. In the first term alone of this academic year, 210 students enrolled for these modules, whereas 320 students took them in the whole of the preceding year” observes Laura Claverie, who leads enterprise training and support for UPPA. This vibrant dynamic seems in no way restrained by the current economic situation. 

Enterprise is an opportunity 

At a time when internships are increasingly hard to find (down 37% nationally in the last 12 months according to the job search website Glassdoor) and starting a career is problematic in this period of health crisis, creating a business opens up new prospects for students. This is the alternative option that inspired Clément Leray. A new graduate with a Masters in Sports Management from Bayonne, the young man threw himself into manufacturing surfboards from natural materials such as wood. “I had friends who had started a business and they had told me all about the benefits. On the Masters course, I had also worked on fictional projects, and I always wanted to make them real. I couldn’t imagine entering the labour market in 2020. I told myself that it was just the year to embark on this adventure.” In November 2020 Clément Leray was awarded the national status of Student Entrepreneur (SNEE), along with some thirty other young people selected by the SNEE awarding committee. This status enables him to have the benefit of student status throughout the whole period of creating the business, as well as training in entrepreneurship and management, the regular support of a mentor, and access to the brand new student hub created by UPPA and the Communauté Pays Basque at the Arkinova Business Generator in Anglet. “Up to now I haven’t been able to go to the Arkinova hub because of the health crisis. But the workshops should be starting up in February. Since October I have been able to spend most of my time working on my business plan. Student Entrepreneur status gives you a framework, and tangible support for the project. It gives you reassurance.” 

A hub for students on the Basque coast

Clément Leray also hopes to make the most of the spirit of healthy competition and of the networking opportunities at the Arkinova student Hub. This is one of the main attractions of this space that offers young people from the Basque coast a place dedicated to entrepreneurship, like the EntrePau incubator created by UPPA in Pau in 2014. “The aim of the hub is to provide SNEE students with a stimulating and professional setting, which acts as a link between university and the business world. It’s also a place they can meet, very conducive to synergies and mutual help,” says Laura Claverie, on site to help the young business creators. The hub is overseen by the University, and is open to all students with SNEE status, whatever their training or area of business. “We have a great range of projects, headed by all sorts of students. Some are focussed on deep tech, others on sport, consultancy, mobile apps or international development,” she adds. 

Encouraging initiative

Although the Arkinova Hub students are adding another aspect to the Arkinova edifice, the Hub is not the only thing springing into action for student enterprise. ESTIA is a pioneer in this area, and has made the spirit of enterprise a cornerstone of its training. From its foundation, the School in Bidart has always encouraged the enterprise initiatives of its students, making them aware of business creation from their very first year. ESTIA also has a student entrepreneur hub, which in 2020 supported 35 young people and incubated 26 enterprise projects. The students from the engineering School account for the majority of the projects incubated, but the hub also welcomes SNEE students of any background, in partnership with UPPA. That’s how Antonin Laurent, with a Bachelors degree from ESC Pau, was able to be hosted at ESTIA to incubate his ergonomic and eco-designed accessory business for laptop computers and smartphones. Attracted by the Basque ecosystem that favoured his career plans, the young man opted for SNEE status and developed his project at ESTIA, while following the UPPA Tools for Enterprise. “I could have continued my studies but I couldn’t find a block release course I liked. And I really wanted to start a business, and had a few different ideas in my head. I decided to take a year out to test out the issues as much as I could and try out my business project. Student Entrepreneur status allows you to be in a stimulating work environment and focus on developing your project. It also gives you a certain credibility with professionals.” Antonin Laurent won the 2019 competition of Entreup’ Adour, giving him “a real helping hand with a very useful financial contribution at the start of the project.” He worked on his project to the point when he officially created his business, LookUp, last October. Now located at the Créaluz incubator in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, the young entrepreneur has launched the marketing of his first products and is already working on the prototypes of new ranges. He is also planning to recruit an eco-design engineer. What an inspiring example! 

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