Cambodia Investment Review

Smart Axiata and Impact Hub Boost Entrepreneurship Education as SmartStart ULP Expands to 17 Universities Across Cambodia

Smart Axiata and Impact Hub Boost Entrepreneurship Education as SmartStart ULP Expands to 17 Universities Across Cambodia

Cambodia Investment Review

Smart Axiata and Impact Hub Phnom Penh (IHPP), along with 17 universities across Cambodia, have joined forces in an MoU renewal for SmartStart Unipreneur Learning Platform (ULP) to continue advancing entrepreneurship and leadership in the Kingdom.

The momentous event was presided over by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, H.E. Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, the Chief Executive Officer of Smart Axiata, Mr. Ziad Shatara, the Chief Executive Officer of IHPP, Ms. Melanie Mossard, and rectors, presidents, and representatives from eight universities in Phnom Penh, four universities in Siem Reap, three universities in Battambang, one in Banteay Meanchey, and one in Svay Rieng.

About SmartStart ULP

SmartStart ULP was founded in 2019 on the premise of equipping young learners with relevant skillsets suited for the 21st century, instilling them with entrepreneurial mindsets via a highly effective approach to learning that includes hands-on practice in classrooms and field visits to local startups that are blended into their university curriculum. The learning then culminates in a business-pitching event as the final evaluation at the end of the program.

Achievements in advancing entrepreneurial spirit

The past four years of SmartStart ULP have yielded significant impacts, setting the stage for a new way of learning. By integrating project-based learning into university curricula, the program has sparked numerous startup ideas with promising entrepreneurial initiatives.

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The program has advanced the momentum for human resource development by providing 1,413 students from 44 classes across 10 universities with relevant experience in their field of study. From this program, 25 startups have emerged with unique ideas to tackle various market demands.

The program addresses key challenges, such as the gap between student skills and job market demands, the lack of an entrepreneurial mindset, and the need for Khmer language curriculum content. Key milestones have included partnering with universities to enhance entrepreneurship education within the institutions, transferring knowledge to lecturers on entrepreneurship teaching and mentoring approaches to better support students in building and forming business ideas in the classroom, and the annual “National Hackathon”, where students get the chance to collaborate with each other and tackle real-world issues.

Accelerating momentum

With the partnership expansion of the SmartStart ULP program, Smart and its partners are pioneering a new era of learning.

The renewed MoU with 10 universities, along with the addition of seven new university partners, exemplifies a commitment to expanding educational opportunities. With a broader network of universities nationwide, the initiative is poised to empower an even larger cohort of students with the tools, knowledge, and resources needed to thrive in the digital world.

“Under our partnership, we will continue fueling the entrepreneurial spirit and bringing forth more innovations by supporting lecturers in delivering blended curricula. With this partnership expansion, we hope to directly engage with more than 2,500 students in over 50 classes by the end of 2024. We look forward to this exciting journey ahead with the 17 universities to build a future where innovation knows no bounds, where creativity and resilience shape the entrepreneurial spirit, and where every graduate is not only a job seeker but an emerging job creator,” said Ziad Shatara, CEO of Smart Axiata.

With support from the CBRD Fund, SmartStart ULP is being carried out in conjunction with the 17 universities: the Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology, University of Puthisastra, Royal University of Law and Economics, Build Bright University in Phnom Penh, Build Bright University in Siem Reap, Royal University of Agriculture, Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia Battambang, Angkor University, Svay Rieng University, CamTech, ACLEDA University of Business, Phnom Penh International University, University of South-East Asia, Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia in Siem Reap, Build Bright University in Banteay Meanchey, National University of Battambang and Build Bright University in Battambang.

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“We started the program by piloting with four universities in Phnom Penh back in 2019. The successful pilot and strong interest from university partners outside Phnom Penh motivated and allowed us to expand our course to other provinces such as Siem Reap, Battambang, Svay Rieng, and Banteay Meanchey. I am really excited to see how the program is being embedded as part of their curriculum. As part of our partnership, we provide a dedicated learning platform where students can learn from their mobile phones and laptops. On the platform, students can access 15 sessions with instructions on how to form business ideas,” said Ms. Kim Kosoma, Chief Operating Officer of IHPP.

University students participating in the course gain an in-depth understanding of entrepreneurship, develop their entrepreneurial mindset, and improve their employability and life skills.

“I want to see students who took the course be able to exchange ideas and test out their ideas in the market through a business competition that they learned from class. Basically, it would be beneficial for the students to have some small seed funding for them to kickstart their business idea,” said Chhoun Phearun, Campus Director of Build Bright University in Siem Reap.

Sustainability of the project

With the renewed MoU and expansion to more universities, SmartStart ULP is set to expand further. This progress highlights the project’s potential for long-term impact in fostering innovation and cultivating the next generation of trailblazers for Cambodia.

As tangible impacts have materialized from SmartStart ULP, it is a golden opportunity for universities to integrate the program into their formal curricula and ultimately take ownership in advancing progress. By doing so, institutions can independently empower young minds with relevant entrepreneurial skills and shape the innovators of tomorrow, who will not only adapt to change but bring forth a prosperous future where economic growth is driven by innovation without limit.

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