EUniWell discovery project in full swing
The ‘Discovery of the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem of EUniWell’s Consortium’s Members’ project has received a EUniWell seed grant. Sjoerd Louwaars, the representative from Leiden University, talks about the project and the first results.
EUniWell is, in short, a cross-border partnership between student entrepreneurs, researchers and support staff that aims to study and improve people’s well-being. For instance, through research and innovative startups. To maximise each other’s potential, the members of the partnership first need to get to know each other properly: what resources do the partners have, how do they go about their work, what are their individual strengths and which problems are they facing?
The aim of the ‘Discovery of the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem of EUniWell’s Consortium’s Members’ project is find this out. The project has received a 30,000-euro grant from the EUniWell Seed Funding programme. Sjoerd Louwaars, director of PLNT, is representing Leiden University on the project. He summarises the project’s strengths as follows: ‘You could say: we’re all universities, so we all do more or less the same. But below the surface we are all very different, which fortunately also provides a good basis for innovation. We are therefore laying the foundations for a good, healthy relationship.’
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This project, Louwaars explains, is responding to the greater goal of EUniWell: improving the health of individuals and society. ‘EUniWell divides the definition of “well-being” into the well-being of society, the well-being of students and researchers and the well-being of institutions. If we can use the university’s knowledge and talent to solve problems that are at play in its immediate surroundings – for instance relating to health – we will help improve the well-being of society. This project can also improve the well-being of institutions by ensuring more immediate contacts between universities and society. This can make it easier for partnerships between all sorts of parties to come about.’
Strengths and dilemmas
There are three phases to the project: the seven universities will begin by getting to know each other in online introduction films. This will be followed by a mini conference for startups that have come up with solutions relating to Covid, to see what the parties can learn from and what they have to offer each other. The third phase will involve a three-day visit to Leiden and Cologne, where the members will consider whether they can develop and submit European grant applications for joint projects. The first phase has more or less been completed. ‘What strikes me is that we all appear to be facing the same issues,’ says Louwaars. ‘How, for instance, can you find the right people and ideas among all the students who are taking your programmes? How can you collaborate effectively? And how as an organisation whose main focus is research, do you also ensure you have a good career-focused programme for your students? We are going to write down all our strengths and dilemmas. It’s great to see that all the parties are very active and interested in one another, and we’re all starting to trust each other. The relationships have already become stronger.’ Louwaars helps students and the university develop innovative initiatives, so the project has its advantages for his work. ‘It’s really interesting to see how other universities tackle entrepreneurship. That’s something I can learn a lot from.’
EUniWell is an alliance of seven universities (Leiden, Birmingham, Cologne, Florence, Linneaus, Nantes and Semmelweis) who have come together to form the European University of Well-Being. EUniWell gives students, researchers and lecturers new international opportunities for collaboration and development. The seven universities want to show that diversity and work across disciplinary and national borders is the best way to tackle the challenges in the area of well-being within the university, in society and around the world.
The EUniWell Seed Funding Programme aims to bring researchers, students, lecturers and administrators from seven universities together. EUniWell issued a second call .in November 2021. Read more about the results of the second call.
In the longer term Louwaars sees the project as a possible way for Leiden to become a ‘city of well-being’. ‘The city has plenty of potential and knowledge, but initiatives are often fragmented. An outsider’s perspective, so from the universities on this project, can help bring together and strengthen these initiatives.’
PLNT Leiden is a centre for innovation and entrepreneurship, a place for young startups. It also matches talented students and young entrepreneurs with partners from the non-profit and business sectors. Leiden University and University of Applied Sciences Leiden and MBO Rijnland are PLNT’s partners from education.