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January / February 2003

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Entrepreneurial Edge

Illustration by Michael Mardosa

Entrepreneurial Edge
Maine Business School engaging enterprising students in the state's economic future

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In an introductory course in finance, college students typically spend a lot of time reviewing case studies of Fortune 500 companies, poring over balance sheets and stock options.

But what about the finances of small and midsize businesses? The principles of finance are the same, whether you're talking about a major corporation or a company with 20 employees. However, the financing options are not the same.

"Small and midsize businesses are the future of the Maine economy, and students need to be prepared to be part of it," says Daniel Innis, dean of the University of Maine College of Business, Public Policy and Health.

In an ongoing effort to address the state's economic development needs, an emphasis on entrepreneurship is something that will soon be woven into the curricula of the Maine Business School. Coursework for UMaine business students will include studies of smaller companies that don't have all the short- and long-term financing options of the Fortune 500 companies, and need other mechanisms to continue operation.

Students will be encouraged to think big, even when they've got just a kernel of a new idea. Above all, they need to understand the viability and importance of small and midsize businesses.

That's particularly pertinent when integrating business with R&D activities.

"We will build an entrepreneurial element into many if not all of our programs, and we're working in collaboration with other colleges on campus to bring entrepreneurial thinking and activity into their classrooms," says Innis, who joined the UMaine community this academic year from Ohio University.

"We want students thinking of the transition from the lab to the business world. There's an awful lot of research on this campus and the business school has an important role in helping to get those ideas to market."

Innis and other UMaine academic leaders look to Northern Ireland as a model in entrepreneurial education. "Ireland tried to transform its economy by instilling an entrepreneur mind-set in the culture," Innis says. "It underwent a change in education so that young, creative people were always thinking about commercializing an idea or invention. We want to explore how they did it, with an eye to doing some of the same things in Maine."

From his college, Innis says lessons in the classroom and in the community will have a strong focus on commercialization of R&D efforts. But the entrepreneurial training also will address the need for existing ideas and products to have better business plans, and for old ideas to get "new twists."

"Much of the economic future of the state is in taking the areas we do well in and finding new applications to build a business around," Innis says.

The William S. Cohen Center for International Policy and Commerce in the college is expected to serve as a centerpiece for many of the economic outreach efforts, Innis says.

"We need to be a college that is in touch with the economic realities and needs of the state in terms of creating an environment that promotes growth," Innis says.

by Margaret Nagle
January-February, 2003

Click Here for more stories from this issue of UMaine Today Magazine.


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