Interview with Prof. Dr. Malte Brettel
Could you briefly introduce yourself?
Prof. Brettel: My name is Malte Brettel, I’m entrepreneurship professor and vice-rector here at RWTH Aachen University. My background is in Mechanical Engineering and Business Administration. I started my career as a consultant and afterwards worked as an entrepreneur and pursued my academic career. I had the privilege to do both: build my entrepreneurial companies – some successful, some not successful – and research related topics, thus combining practice and research.
What does entrepreneurship mean for you?
Prof. Brettel: First of all, entrepreneurship is a way of thinking and acting. We are facing large changes in our society; the technological change is a huge challenge right now. That means we are facing uncertainty and we don’t know what the world of tomorrow will look like. Facing that uncertainty also means that entrepreneurs have to cope with that and need to do the right experiments and draw the right conclusions to solve the challenges of today and tomorrow. Entrepreneurship means not only recognizing a good idea when it comes across, but also knowing what to do with it and to be able to cope with the uncertainty – and this applies to the setting of an already established company as well as to entrepreneurs building their own companies.
"Entrepreneurship is a way of thinking and acting."
Can entrepreneurship actually be learned?
Prof. Brettel: Lots of studies show that entrepreneurs are not born, but made, which is also common understanding nowadays. We teach entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial way of thinking and acting, using all sorts of innovative learning methods. So yes, for sure – entrepreneurship can be taught and can be learned.
How does your experience as an entrepreneur translate into the classroom?
Prof. Brettel: Well, in my entrepreneurial efforts I have gone through all the ups and downs that entrepreneurs have. I want to combine all my practical experience with the theoretical insights I gain from research today. I have learned from the ups and downs and drawn conclusions from my mistakes. I pass this knowledge on to my students so that they don’t make the same mistakes and learn to draw from failures. This is how I teach entrepreneurship.
What is so special about studying entrepreneurship at RWTH Business School?
Prof. Brettel: The unique selling point of our M.Sc. Technology Entrepreneurship is that, we are not only teaching entrepreneurship, but also have all facilities for potential entrepreneurs to develop their ideas and companies. Through close cooperation between universities, research institutions and companies, Aachen has developed into one of the most important high-tech locations in Europe. Visible proof of this is the RWTH Aachen Campus, which was developed jointly with industry and provides a unique platform for science and industry alike.
During the study program our students gain all the related management know-how they need to build a successful company. The professors are very close to technological changes that are happening in our university and are able to translate that into the newest management competences – and that is what we teach here. So for every student who is interested in managing technological changes in the future, this is the right place to go. Additionally we have an incubation facility and different specialized incubators. We offer every entrepreneur the possibility to do prototyping and support them in doing so. As a technical university, we have the technological competence and the ideal infrastructure to develop a technology-oriented start-up in a protected environment. I think that is pretty unique.
What are your expectations for the M.Sc. Technology Entrepreneurship?
Prof. Brettel: My expectation is to get students from all over the world into our classroom and out of our classroom into world-class companies. I am very much looking forward to work with passionate students and accompany them on their journey. And afterwards I am looking forward to develop companies that emerge out of our classroom and our entrepreneurial activities.
Do you have any advice for future entrepreneurs?
Prof. Brettel: First of all you have to have the ability and the openness to never stop learning and always think outside the box. You have to learn how to cope with uncertainty and where the uncertainty comes from in order to try to use this for your own business – to be able to learn faster than all of the others, be better than all of the others and by that build a great company.
You want to know more about our brand new M.Sc. Technology Entrepreneurship (TENT)? Please follow this link.
Prof. Dr. Malte Brettel
Head of Chair
Innovation and Entrepreneurship;
M.Sc. Technology Entrepreneurship