Entrepreneurship and innovation – a bright future

When one thinks of common Irish-Slovak interests, entrepreneurship and innovation may not immediately come to mind.

School teams presenting their ideas and prototypes. School teams presenting their ideas and prototypes. (Source: Courtesy of the Irish Embassy to Slovakia.)

The recent visit of Mr Damien English, T.D., Ireland’s Minister of State for Skills, Research and Innovation confirmed a strong mutual interest in these areas as both countries share ideas on how best to support the development of new businesses with new ideas and new products. Supporting the development of innovative start-up businesses with the potential to scale up and increase employment makes sense as these enterprises can play an important role in generating future growth and prosperity. So how can countries such as Ireland or Slovakia foster a culture of entrepreneurship?

One approach is to engage the next generation, our future entrepreneurs, now. Junior entrepreneur programmes in education and student enterprise awards have been successful in stimulating interest in entrepreneurship amongst the young in Ireland. In Slovakia too, youth entrepreneurship is generating interest and enthusiasm.

I was fortunate enough to have been amongst the judges of Slovakia’s Innovative Kid Programme last year. The brainchild of Kenneth Ryan, Managing Partner at KPMG, Slovakia, this youth entrepreneurship programme and competition is both inspirational and educational. Students, aged between 10 and 14, and their schools are supported with mentoring, workshops and site visits to stimulate their interest in innovation and entrepreneurship. They are inspired to come up with ideas, a prototype and a plan to market an innovative new product. 

Last year, six teams of students from CZŠ Narnia, Bratislava and the elementary school ZŠ Bošany reached the finals of the competition. Their presentations and prototypes were of such a high quality that the judges had a very difficult task. With just one point between the top two teams, Space+ from ZŠ Bošany and the Pet Guard team from CZŠ Narnia, both teams were awarded the prize of a trip to Dublin, Ireland. 

The Space+ team designed and produced an innovative shelf that can be attached to school or office desks to provide extra space for mobile phones, business cards and USB keys. The Pet Guard team produced a prototype for a device with a camera and a speaker allowing remote contact with pets whilst the owner is away from home. Both teams put together excellent presentations which demonstrated that they had given careful consideration to every element of their business plan for the new product.

This year, the Innovative Kid programme has been expanded to include seven participating schools in Bratislava, Ivanka pri Dunaji, Bošany, Nováky, Trstená and Košice. It is expected that up to 1000 children will take part by 2022. From what I have seen of the creativity and innovation of Slovak students, I am certain that Slovakia’s future is bright. 

Increased interaction between governments working with forward looking businesses to stimulate young people’s interest in entrepreneurship is an investment in the future which has the potential to boost future employment and income levels. Ireland and Slovakia have a mutual interest in increasing entrepreneurship and fostering growth and prosperity. The recent opening of a Ryanair base in Bratislava and the introduction of daily flights to Dublin will provide an opportunity for more visits and greater sharing of ideas between our two countries. Unleashing the creativity of young people and stimulating their interest in becoming entrepreneurs at a young age are amongst the best ways to secure their future.

By Anne-Marie Callan, Irish Ambassador to Slovakia 

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