Have the "Pépite" projects found their legitimacy? Insights from student-entrepreneurs

In October 2013, Geneviève Fioraso, Minister of Higher Education and Research launched what was to be a vast plan to promotestudent entrepreneurship. This resulted in particular in the 2014 launch of the Pôles étudiants pour l'innovation, le transfert et l'entrepreneuriat, which is what the acronym "Pépite" stands for.

Karim Messeghem, University of MontpellierAbdelaziz Swalhi, University of Montpellier and Constance Banc, University of Montpellier

The Pépites are designed to support student entrepreneurs, a status created in 2014. Magnet.Me / Pixabay, CC BY-SA

Alongside the student-entrepreneur status, this scheme is a follow-up to the Assises de l'Entrepreneuriat organized in 2013, which highlighted the fragility and even precariousness of student entrepreneurship. The Pépite network, of which there are 33 in mainland France and the French overseas departments and territories, is tasked with raising awareness, training and supporting students embarking on their own business ventures.

Nearly 10 years later, we have attempted to take stock of these tools, which are still in force. In 2019, an initial assessment, while highlighting the validity of the scheme, highlighted a lack of awareness, particularly among students and companies. The report recommended strengthening links with players in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, the subject of our research.

Useful structures

Certainly, today, France is recognized for the actions it has taken to support student entrepreneurship. In the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor study, France ranks 7th out of the 22 richest countries for promoting entrepreneurship in higher education, but only 17th in primary and secondary education. What do the main players involved in the clusters think?

As part of Labex Entreprendre's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Lab Chair, we conducted a study on the legitimacy of Pépite with 151 student-entrepreneurs from 15 clusters in France. By "legitimacy", we mean an actor's perceived fit with an entrepreneurial ecosystem in terms of rules, values, norms and definitions.

A measurement scale attempts to capture this and aims to assess Pépite's perceived ability to encourage a market dynamic (utilitarian dimension), foster an entrepreneurial dynamic (existential dimension) and contribute to ecosystem development (socio-economic dimension). The 18 items were rated from 0 ("not at all") to 100 ("completely"). According to the students surveyed, Pépite has a good level of legitimacy overall (average score of 74.36/100), but there are differences according to the three dimensions of the scale.

The highest score was for the socio-economic dimension (78.92/100). According to respondents, Pépite is well recognized by other ecosystem players. They emphasize that they are well anchored within local entrepreneurial ecosystems, and consider that they play an active role in their management and governance.

The score for the utilitarian dimension is slightly lower (73.17/100). While Pépite are considered useful in the sense of creating overall value for student-entrepreneurs, the latter feel that they could play a greater role in providing resources, particularly financial (fund-raising, investor meetings, etc.) and intangible (mentoring, training, etc.). Their contribution in terms of opportunity assessment is fairly well recognized.

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The lowest score was observed for the existential dimension (70.97/100). The students surveyed consider the Pépite to be an indispensable part of the ecosystem, but they are a little more reserved about the entrepreneurial experience of the teams and the Pépite's ability to take risks in strategic and day-to-day activities (project selection, etc.).

Legitimacy as a source of performance

Our study also shows that this perceived legitimacy favors confidence (85/100) and satisfaction (76/100) with Pépite among student-entrepreneurs. This second dimension, moreover, seems to be more influenced by legitimacy. It explains around two-thirds of the variation in satisfaction, compared with 57% for confidence.

These results underline the value of measuring legitimacy as a lever for structural performance. A Pépite perceived as legitimate by student-entrepreneurs is more likely to enjoy a high level of satisfaction and trust. We can therefore assume that student-entrepreneurs who perceive the Pépite as legitimate will be more inclined to participate and get involved in its activities, and will thus be able to better appreciate the services and support offered.

Generally speaking, it is in the interest of these structures to work on their legitimization strategy to obtain a higher level of satisfaction and trust from student-entrepreneurs. One way of achieving this is to strengthen their ability to facilitate access to resources.

Karim Messeghem, University Professor, University of MontpellierAbdelaziz Swalhi, Senior Lecturer in Management Sciences, University of Montpellier and Constance Banc, Doctor in Management Sciences / Research Engineer at LabEx Entreprendre, University of Montpellier

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.