It is common knowledge that competition enhances performance and creativity. But how can you exert social impact through competition? What happens when students of a higher education institution are asked to find a solution to the problem of a company in a competitive situation? Last year, a number of projects which set the goal of exchanging good practices or developing innovative contents were implemented in international partnerships under the Erasmus+ programme. These are so-called strategic partnerships. We will rely on a winning project, coordinated by Hungarian and Spanish partners, to present how to use the method of competition innovatively, as well as the results that can be thus achieved.


The Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships programme seeks to support the quality improvement of higher education by developing, disseminating and applying innovative practices and methods. In the project year 2014, the winners included a consortium of six partners, headed by the University of Pannonia, as well as Budapest Business School, acting as a partner in a project coordinated by the Spanish partner. Besides developing innovative professional content and the quality of education, these large-scale international partnerships are also suitable for establishing international relations. The main goals of the projects include enhancing entrepreneurial and management competences and skills, renewing the educational approach, providing new educational methods and strengthening the relationship between education and training and the world of work. The method of involving the students and pupils in the implementation of the project goals are the same in the two projects. Students need to use their creativity and knowledge to find solutions to either company or social problems in professionally designed competitions.

Compete for us, we’ll compete for you

The Erasmus+ programme provides an opportunity for partnerships between companies and educational institutions. The goal is to bring students of higher education closer to the players of the labour market, as well as to enable companies to make contact with students and thus communicate their actual requirements towards higher education, and, also, to be available to students with a knowledge based on real experiences. Thinking and identifying the problems together is beneficial to both parties.

Budapest Business School is involved in the Hands on Entrepreneurship for Higher Education project (HEHE) as the Hungarian partner. One of the project’s dissemination activities is the Innovate or die! competition held in Bilbao on 8 May and in Budapest on 8 October. The students coming from various higher education institutions – on an invitation basis – generally formed groups of five and spent a day working on the solution to real problems of companies operating in the domestic market, and then presented their ideas at the end of the day. The solution considered to be the best by the panel was awarded. The panel consisted of leaders of the companies which compiled the tasks (in Budapest, International Training Centre for Bankers, K&H Bank, KKV Klaszterház Plc. and SALDO Financial Consulting and IT Co.) At a similar case study competition held in Bilbao, one of the corporate partners that "supplied" the problem was IKEA. It was because the Swedish company had long been faced with the question of how to prevent customers from associating low prices with low quality.

“The EU 2020 strategy highlights the necessity of integrating creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial skills into education, and offers a number of programmes which can contribute to strengthening Europe's entrepreneurial and innovative skills. We need to stimulate young people’s entrepreneurial thinking, as well as to create a more favourable environment for enterprises, because the EU does not fully exploit the skills of its entrepreneurs. Education must play an important role in developing European citizens' key entrepreneurial competences."

In April 2016, under the HEHE project, the Innovate or die! day competition will be announced again, this time open to everyone. According to Project Coordinator Péter Tasi, there are plans to continue to organise the competition on a yearly basis even after the project is closed, engaging company sponsors in the implementation.

Social innovation and social enterprise

The current three-year winning project by the University of Pannonia, called ‘Social Innovation Competition for Students and Adult Learners (I-SICS)’, was launched in 2014 and it is built around an international social innovation competition. The project is made really exciting by the diversity of partners and target groups. They include the competitors, the socials groups whose problems the innovative ideas are targeted at, as well as all the organisations, groups and individuals participating in solving the problems. As a first step of the project, a study that summarises good practices is made on the methodology of implementing study case competitions, organised for higher education students worldwide, as well as on the topics of projects aimed at social innovation. It is followed by the international competition presenting the international projects and its preliminary, regional rounds. At least 15 competitors per country participate in the competition, out of whom the 3 best from each country, that is, altogether 18 students participate in the international round. The competition is facilitated by mentors, and a professional panel assesses the competitors. The competition itself, as well as its methodology are detailed in a professional presentation and organisation manual, which, as a kind of competition guide, will also help others organise similar students’ competitions. The goal is to make this methodology available to anyone later.

Higher education institutions focus more and more consciously on developing students’ entrepreneurial skills, recognising their importance in the world of work. There are a number of ways to do so; one of them is competition. In intensive and challenging incubation situations, ideas and knowledge can produce quick solutions to problems which are otherwise a hard nut to crack. Through common thinking and the knowledge of good practices, students may find innovative solutions which, in the long-term, can support development in a given field and establishing social enterprises.




Last modified: 16-10-2017