The Social Entrepreneurship Option for Scientists and Engineers

Hull, Richard and Berry, Robert. 2016. The Social Entrepreneurship Option for Scientists and Engineers. In: Rao Bhamidimarri and Ailin Liu, eds. Engineering and Enterprise. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, pp. 27-44. ISBN 9783319278247 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

Social Entrepreneurship education is in its infancy, especially compared with more general Entrepreneurship education, so it is not at all surprising that there is very little research into this area. Indeed, as far as we are aware there is very little practice of specifically tailoring social entrepreneurship education for scientists and engineers. This latter observation is, however, surprising, as some have suggested that a significant proportion of social entrepreneurs are scientists and engineers seeking to turn their skills to solve social problems. In addition, the funding and evaluation of scientific research increasingly requires discussion of social impact, a topic central to contemporary social entrepreneurship. Following a preliminary discussion of the recent emergence of “tech for good”, we explore two central issues to be addressed in educating scientists and engineers about the complex world of social entrepreneurship: the long tradition of social responsibility amongst scientists and engineers, and different approaches to the analysis of innovation. Although the popular image of scientists and engineers is that they are disinterested neutral observers there is a long tradition of scientists and engineers becoming embroiled in the role of science and technology within contemporary society. J.D. Bernal famously aroused the wrath of Karl Popper in the 1930s with his calls for greater political oversight of scientific research, and in the late 1960s the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science engaged in controversies such as university engagement in research into chemical weapons. Social responsibility, we would argue, has long been a distinctive characteristic of many, even most scientists and engineers. Teaching them about social entrepreneurship and social enterprise will need to understand, work with and develop this tendency. The concept of social innovation, dating back to the 1990s, broadly
describes developing new solutions to social problems. Scientists and engineers are of course familiar with the processes of technological innovation so again we have a very good potential fit between scientists, engineers and social entrepreneurship. However, many of the most effective approaches to the socio-economic analysis of innovation are based on some form of social constructionist perspective and hence potentially clash with scientists’ and engineers’ training. This is our second key issue. These preliminary thoughts will be illustrated through discussion of the current education about social entrepreneurship with a UK-based scientist/engineer working with a project centred on a bio-waste energy plant in India.

Item Type:

Book Section

Identification Number (DOI):


Social enterprise, Social entrepreneurship, Social innovation, Technopreneur, Innovation studies, Entrepreneurship education

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


1 March 2016Published
25 February 2016Published Online

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Date Deposited:

14 Nov 2018 10:24

Last Modified:

02 Feb 2021 12:13


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