The Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership’s latest foray into entrepreneurship education is a step that will benefit scholars across the globe. The “Entrepreneurship Research Engine” (or “E-Engine,” as it is known at the Academy) is a landmark research project which has consolidated into one database literally thousands of peer-reviewed and other articles on entrepreneurship, previously unavailable in any central location.
Funded in part by the Kauffman Foundation, the E-Engine is the brainchild of Dr. Cynthia Kehoe, Academy Director of Information and Research Services. Dr. Kehoe worked extensively with Academy Director Paul Magelli to incorporate the E-Engine into the University of Illinois’ original proposal to the Kauffman Foundation to create the Academy.
“I had actually been thinking about the need for a research portal like this for some time,” Dr. Kehoe said. “And since it fit perfectly with the University of Illinois’ proposal for the Academy, we simply incorporated a smaller version of my original idea into the proposal. When we defended our proposal in Kansas City in December 2003, Bob Litan [Kauffman’s Vice President of Research and Policy] approached me and asked what it would take to create the Entrepreneurship Research Engine as it was originally envisioned.”
The result of that conversation was more than $600,000 in grant monies over nearly three years from Kauffman to fund the creation of the E-Engine.
Why the need?
“Research on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial principles – though extensive – has tended to be widely dispersed,” Kehoe explained. “And the scholars are in diverse fields like economics, political science, sociology, geography, and history, publishing their findings in the journals that serve those discrete disciplines. So there was no central place where someone could access these works.”
Kehoe continued. “Our goals for the E-Engine were three-fold therefore: first, to make this work visible; to make scholars in other fields aware of the fact that there is doctoral quality research going on in this space. Second, to bring out the diversity of perspectives that are present in entrepreneurship research. And third, to assist future scholars in entrepreneurship by enabling them to build on existing scholarship, which you cannot do if you do not even know it exists!”
Academy Executive Director Tony Mendes emphasized the significance of the E-Engine to the Academy’s overall mission.
“The Kauffman Foundation was impressed with the University of Illinois’ proposal to create the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership,” Mendes explained, “because of the university’s distinctive position as a research institution without peer. Entrepreneurship as a doctoral discipline has never had an institutional champion like the University of Illinois. One of the Academy’s most important goals is to facilitate the development and understanding of entrepreneurship as a serious discipline. The E-Engine is an unprecedented tool for researchers in that regard,” he said.
According to the terms of the original grant, the University of Illinois agreed to provide content, and the Kauffman Foundation is responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the E-Engine’s actual website portal, which went live in 2005. Kauffman made major enhancements to its website in late spring 2006, including RSS feeds and e-mail lists of articles, categorized by discipline.
As those receiving the e-mails or RSS feeds know, the sheer volume of entrepreneurship research that the E-Engine has made visible is impressive. Dr. Kehoe acknowledges that this has come as a surprise, even to those well-versed in the field.
“Scholars in the so-called ‘core areas’ of entrepreneurship research – largely economics and management – have been astonished to see the research that has been taking place in other areas, such as the humanities, social sciences and fine arts,” she said.
The original funding for the creation of the E-Engine is winding down, but Kehoe hopes to continue nevertheless. “Ideally, we’d like to continue to assemble existing research,” she said, “and to add resources that are not typically available on the open web. For example, we’ve gotten great response from the fact that we’ve added tables of contents and even entire book chapters to the E-Engine. But that sort of work is extremely labor intensive, and so we anticipate working on a smaller scale going forward, unless additional support is found.”
Kehoe is already busy planning the next phase of making entrepreneurship research available, and will once again be working with the Kauffman Foundation.
Persons interested in being on the E-Engine email listing or in providing additional support for the Entrepreneurship Research Engine should contact Dr. Kehoe at firstname.lastname@example.org.