Background information


Project period: 2011-2013


Background / Objective / Key questions



Over the last two decades, the six eastern German Länder have made impressive progress in restructuring their economy and in pursuing economic convergence with western Germany and Europe. Start-ups and young businesses, in particular by university  graduates, have become key contributors to economic and employment due to their dynamism and their capacity to exploit the local knowledge base. OECD studies underlined that mobilising young people for entrepreneurial careers, enhancing their entrepreneurial skills and competences, and providing business start-up support form an important policy task for governments, and make universities central actors.

The majority of universities across eastern Germany are actively engaged in supporting their students and graduates in entrepreneurial activities. Many have established a rich support infrastructure for the development of competences and skills and hands-on start-up support (OECD 2010). Entrepreneurship education is receiving greater attention and space, in form of professorships, departments and institutes, and “Entrepreneurship Centres” offer aspiring entrepreneurs a wide range of support services, including coaching, access to incubation facilities, referral to specialised business support providers, and, often also, facilitation in accessing finance. Promising activities are team-building across faculties and with real entrepreneurs, and the organisation of mentoring by successful, often alumni entrepreneurs. A clear strength to build on is the presence of people – students, professors, researchers, and administrative staff – with a clear interest in entrepreneurship. Ties with their alma mater can also facilitate the innovation activity of alumni firms, if access to latest research is easy.

This project continues OECD LEED work on university entrepreneurship support started in 2006 in the framework of the ongoing collaboration between the Commissioner for the New Federal States, the eastern German Länder and the OECD LEED Programme, and is part of the OECD LEED Skills and Competences for Entrepreneurship project.



The aim of this project is to provide advice for policy makers at Federal and Land levels, and practical assistance to university management and practitioners in charge of business start-up and early growth support, on how to improve the current strategy, infrastructure and practices in supporting new and young firms emerging from universities in order to increase the birth and growth rates.


Key questions and units of analysis

The following key questions and their associated units of analysis will be central to this project.

Except for the first question, for which we will study an eastern German wide sample, the analysis will be confined to three selected geographic case study areas (hereafter referred to as ‘case study area’), as explained below.


What are current strategies and practices in university entrepreneurship support, and what constitutes the university internal support infrastructure? What are the strengths and weaknesses?

With the help of a questionnaire-based survey of all eastern German universities current strategies, support infrastructures and practices in promoting business start-ups will be reviewed. In addition, a detailed analysis will be undertaken in the case study areas.


What effects have current practices in entrepreneurship education and start-up support on entrepreneurial intentions and activities of students, and the growth of new and young firms? What are the implications for policy development?

Supported by the managements of universities in the case study areas, we will undertake student surveys in order to get feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the entrepreneurship education and the start-up support offer and their impact on start-up intentions.

A firm-level analysis will be conducted in the case study areas with the aim to greater understanding of the effects of entrepreneurship on survival and growth of new and young firms.


How well is the university entrepreneurship support integrated into a wider local entrepreneurship support system?

To answer this question, desk research will be conducted in the case study areas in addition to interviews with key entrepreneurship support providers during the study visits.



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