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IMD students to coach 19 start-ups

IMD will coach Grenoble-based Crocus Technology, a maker of magnetic memory devices (IBM Research)

This year the Lausanne-based business school, IMD, has selected 19 companies to work with MBA candidates.

Fifteen of the firms are due to work with full-time MBA students while four will collaborate with the Executive MBA class during the first half of 2004.

The IMD teams dedicate up to 500 man-hours to the start-up firms’ management. The effort, led by Professor Benoit Leleux and Jim Pulcrano is supported by Switzerland’s CTI/KTI Startup program.

A quick look at the selected companies shows that the IMD has cast its net across a wide range of technologies and industrial clusters, even across international borders: three of the firms are French and one is Dutch.

Organisers say they have increased the number firms over last year and “purposely” selected from a wide spectrum of technologies.

The list of companies includes Crocus Technology of France, a maker of memory chips with plans to build its own foundry, the Swiss firm Spinomix, which is developing a new technology based on magnetic beads to separate DNA and molecules; and Switzerland’s TechPowder, a firm that nanopowders for various industries (e.g. electronics, pharmaceuticals) using a proprietary process.

Potential for success

One thing all these firms have in common, according to the IMD, is that they have the best potential for success and offer great learning opportunities for MBA students.

Last year, 13 firms were selected for the programme. One of them, ABMI SA, received good publicity as the Wall St Journal selected it for the top prize in an innovation competition.

Entrepreneurship is a key element in both of IMD’s MBA programmes, Pulcrono said in an announcement, and one of the few ways to learn about entrepreneurs is to dive into the life of a start-up and work alongside them as they struggle with the many challenges they are faced with every day.

IMD’s efforts are part of a relatively new wave at top business schools, which has been underway since the late nineties. They have realized that the best job creators are the small-and-medium sized companies, rather than the giant Fortune 500-type companies.

“In the seventies, we thought that economic growth would be driven by big business, big government, and big regulatory environments,” said Peter Hiscocks, who heads up the University of Cambridge young enterprise incubator during a speech at a recent venture capital confab in Sophia Antipolis, France.

“But recent history has shown that the economists were perhaps mistaken.”

Business schools now dedicate more resources to building knowledge in the field of entrepreneurship and to training professionals to manage growing start-up companies.

by Valerie Thompson

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR