Partnership network gives visibility to micro-entrepreneurs’ needs

Under the Universities Act, universities have three missions: research, education and interacting with society.
Anna-Mari Simunaniemi

The Microentrepreneurship Centre of Excellence MicroENTRE at the University of Oulu Kerttu Saalasti Institute has conducted multidisciplinary and applied research with an entrepreneurial approach since 2011. We produce research evidence and help build a society that creates good preconditions for the sustainable growth and renewal of micro-enterprises in changing operating environments.

The special features of the growth and management of micro-enterprises at their various life stages and in different business environments are at the core of our research. We also wish to build an entrepreneurial culture throughout society and exert influence through our networks for more effective entrepreneurship education at all levels of education and training. Our work is based on close local, national and international partnerships.

One of our best-known operating models is the MicroENTRE ® Growth Network, which is based on micro-entrepreneurs’ peer activities. This network has been launched in five counties in Eastern and Northern Finland. In Central Ostrobothnia, the activities are coordinated by business development company KOSEK based in Kokkola. All local core groups are part of the network which, at the national level, is coordinated by MicroENTRE. This work has also attracted extensive interest outside Finland. The northern microentrepreneurship workshops intended for the entire network are a tradition which will go ahead for the sixth time next April in Mikkeli, both on site and through remote connections, as part of the Teräväpiirtoa tulevaan (Sharpening the focus on future) event.

Our vision is that the local core groups coordinated by local business services will open up genuine opportunities for micro-enterprises to network also at the national level and join the pioneer networks in their sectors. Scientific research has also been published on these activities (Simunaniemi et al., 2020), in which the peer groups are assessed as pragmatic communities that support entrepreneurial activities.

Our strategic partners include organisations that provide business services, educational institutions and research institutes around the country and, for example, Arctic research networks. Together with our partner network, we are currently putting together a strategic steering group which will support our activities, bring us news from the field of micro-entrepreneurs, and create visions for a longer period of time.

The national partnership network contributes to the national mission of education and research in microentrepreneurship funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. This work will be carried out by the University of Oulu Kerttu Saalasti Institute from the beginning of next year.

In addition to research and development projects, our researchers have this year created brand new microentrepreneurship e-Learning courses based on research evidence. We provide education both in the form of University of Oulu’s credit-awarding Open University education and as slightly more practically oriented continuing education for entrepreneurs and business advisors who are interested in developing their work and competence.

Our offering next spring will include courses on agile management of micro-enterprises, managing growth and networks as well as micro-enterprises’ changing operating environments. In addition to other online learning materials, we will also produce for each course podcasts on which visiting entrepreneurs, business advisors and researchers discuss the course topics. We are proud of our new way of delivering education underpinned by research evidence which can be accessed whenever and wherever the learners are. In keeping with the principles of open science, the podcasts are freely available on the Institute's website.

We could not fulfil the three missions of the universities without our partners, who ensure that our work is connected to the real needs of micro-enterprises, help to disseminate the results of our experiments, and are involved in building new models to support the operating preconditions of micro-enterprises. All those who are interested will be welcome to participate in this work.


Anna-Mari Simunaniemi, Research Director, Microentrepreneurship Centre of Excellence MicroENTRE

This article was published in the newspaper Keskipohjanmaa on 19 December 2020.