To completely implement the guiding principles of the 20th National Congress of the CPC, and to align with the state and the Ministry of Education's directives on college students' innovation and entrepreneurship, the Open University of China (OUC) took a significant step forward.

On 22nd October, 2023, the OUC inaugurated its First New Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition in Beijing. This dual-mode event, conducted both online and in-person, had the presence of Fan Xianrui, a member of the Party Committee and vice president of the OUC. The ceremony was expertly chaired by Liu Zhifang, dean of the Faculty of Economics & Management at the OUC. The gathering saw an impressive turnout of 63 attendees, comprising faculty from the OUC headquarters, departmental heads, and leaders from affiliated enterprises.

In her speech, Fan Xianrui stated that innovation and entrepreneurship are the driving forces behind social progress and economic development. They play a crucial role in boosting national competitiveness and overall strength. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee, with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, has placed significant emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship education. It has been proposed that "innovation and entrepreneurship education should span the entire talent development process, cultivating creative talent through innovative education, and using these talented people to foster an innovative nation". She highlighted that the OUC proactively aligned itself with higher education's mainstream. They enthusiastically encouraged their academic community to participate in the China International "Internet+" College Students Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition, achieving commendable results for three straight years. The OUC's inaugural New Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition sought to discover fresh approaches to nurture new business talent in the age of the digital economy. This effort holds considerable practical value, enhancing the caliber of talent development in open education and fostering the high-quality evolution of open education.

She emphasised that for the advancement of innovation and entrepreneurship education, open universities must prioritize several strategies.

Firstly, it's essential to place student entrepreneurship at the core of the process, creating an "OUC" model for innovation and entrepreneurship education. This model should focus on an integrative approach, combining classroom instruction, independent learning, real-world practice, guidance, support, and cultural leadership. The rapid development of signature courses that highlight the unique aspects of innovation and entrepreneurship education is also crucial.

Secondly, there must be a shift in the role and training of educators. Establishing an adept teaching body specifically for innovation and entrepreneurship education is paramount. It's vital to develop a faculty mix that combines "specialization and integration" with both full-time and part-time educators. Enhancing the instructional capabilities and overall quality of teachers in this field is essential. Moreover, forging partnerships with traditional universities and industry players can facilitate the formation of a mentorship team dedicated to innovation and entrepreneurship.

Lastly, the focus should be on infrastructure and platform development to invigorate the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. Utilizing the lifelong education platform of the OUC, it's necessary to collaborate on constructing resources for innovation and entrepreneurship within the educational framework. By partnering with relevant industries, we can establish practical "innovation & entrepreneurship" teaching bases. Additionally, offering comprehensive information services related to support policies for innovation and entrepreneurship, industry incentives, and general educational resources will benefit both OUC students and the broader community.

The theme of this year's competition is "Innovation Leads the Future; Entrepreneurship Achieves Dreams". Submissions should align with the principles of modern business practices, focus on the forefront of digital economic development, support the nation's strategic vision, and showcase new technologies, industries, business practices, and models. Since its initiation in April 2023, the competition has received 228 projects from 31 branches. These projects went through three phases: branch nomination, the competition of works, and on-site challenges. The judging panel, comprised of experts from renowned universities and corporations, utilized a mix of independent assessments and consolidated evaluations. After three rigorous rounds of selection – the initial screening by the working group, the preliminary review by the judges, and the judges' final review – a hard-fought battle narrowed it down to nine standout teams who progressed to the on-site competition.

The on-site competition comprised both a roadshow and a debate session. Judges evaluated participants based on six criteria: education, business, innovation, team, social value, and on-site performance. Ultimately, the project "Kutai - Creating the First Brand of China's Industrial Thermal Outdoor" from the Qingdao branch emerged as the champion. Entries from the Wuhan, Xi'an, and Hunan branches secured second place. Meanwhile, projects from five branches—Guangdong, Shanghai, Henan, Zhejiang, and Chongqing—earned third place.

This competition showcases the innovation and entrepreneurship of OUC students, offering a platform for collaborative learning. Moving forward, the Faculty of Economics and Management will persist in hosting the New Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition, striving to establish it as a hallmark event for OUC.

By Wang Jia and Xu Jinhai, OUC