When it comes to technology, Silicon Valley is considered the world´s biggest innovation hub. But tech innovation fever is becoming a pandemic, and the Valley is no longer the only destination for forward-thinking business minds to experience disruption.
In fact, in the coming years, it might not even be among the front-runners.
“If you talk to a lot of different investors, Silicon Valley has actually been oversaturated,” explains Elena Emma, adjunct professor at EU Business School in Spain. “There are talks that investors are actually looking outside of Silicon Valley [for innovative businesses].”
Drawing on her expertise in startup, Elena seeks to draw her students’ attention to the opportunities that are popping up all over Europe to get involved in disruptive tech—like artificial intelligence and blockchain—either by starting or joining an entrepreneurial venture.
Europe “better than the US” for tech entrepreneurs
“Europe woke up from its sleep a while back,” Elena says. “It has a lot of really good programs with grants for people who have innovative ideas.”
Students at EU are ideally situated to take advantage of such schemes, as the school boasts campuses across the continent: in Montreux, Geneva, Munich, and Barcelona.
The latter, where Elena teaches, is a particular hotspot: in 2015 alone, the Catalan government invested €55 million ($62 million) to promote new business projects. The CITIE report released the same year named Barcelona as the 4th best city favoring digital entrepreneurship.
“It’s actually better than the US in terms of what’s being built by the government here,” she says.
“Barcelona is known for innovation, its artistic vibe, its freedom of thought and freedom of action—that’s why entrepreneurs really like this place, because it’s a hub of lots of different labs. It’s like Berlin, but the weather’s much better!”
Tech: an industry or a tool?
Still, teaching students about startup and technology can be challenging in an environment that is constantly being disrupted—and, indeed, which may even be in the process of being redefined.
“We just had a big discussion [in class] about ‘What is tech?’—is it an industry, or is it a tool?” Elena muses.
“I think that is where the debate is going to be in the next few years—I don’t think there is any business out there, including simple brick-and-mortar shops, that do not use technology, so talking about technology as an industry is actually going to take a step back.”
Instead, Elena suggests, technology (and its disruptive tendencies) will have to be incorporated into teaching across MBAs—no longer a specialist subject, it will become a generalist skill.
Fortunately, EU Business School is primed to adapt to this change. It not only offers specializations on its MBA programs, for instance in blockchain technology, but also compulsory modules on digital business and blockchain management folded into the core content of the course.
“We’re not worried”—faculty give students the tools to adapt
For Henry Negreira Hernandez, the subject coordinator for entrepreneurship, digitalization, and innovation at EU Business School, focussing attention on the latest trends is key.
The faculty, he notes, are constantly re-evaluating the most pressing changes that need to be shared with students, for instance in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and big data analytics.
Indeed, as Elena pointed out, being close to so many innovation hubs makes them ideally situated to identify the latest trends; for instance, the Annual Mobile World Congress takes place in Barcelona, at which the implications of 5G technology were discussed by industry leaders from around the world.
This translates to teaching on hot-button issues for students, according to Henry: “We present new cases [to students] that are happening in real time, and we ask them to predict what’s going to happen in the next year based on their study,” he says.
This adaptiveness in course material is what EU Business School is ultimately trying to stimulate in their MBAs, as Henry says that the key skill he wants his students to take into their future careers is critical thinking.
“Tomorrow’s core business knowledge doesn’t exist yet,” Henry cautions. “So, we also provide students with something we consider essential—the soft skills that are going to stay relevant no matter what technology there is.
“What I try to develop the most is critical thinking: the ability for students to provide their own insights, and not to just follow what other people are saying, thinking with creativity and innovation.”