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Can entrepreneurship prevent brain drain: reflections from the ENCORE project

To intervene in brain drain the ENCORE project helped in establishing Entrepreneurship Knowledge Centres at six universities in Nepal, Bhutan and Laos.


Eva Holmberg

Yrkeshögskolan Novia

Annika Konttinen

lehtori, matkailuliiketoiminta
Senior Lecturer, tourism business
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 22.02.2024

Brain drain…we heard that word often when discussing challenges in the target countries of the Erasmus Plus ENCORE project. Our three-year long project aimed at enhancing entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurial mindset at universities in Nepal, Bhutan and Laos.

In this article, we reflect on the idea whether entrepreneurship could come to the rescue and stop young minds and talents having to move abroad in search of a better future.

Brain drain and its impacts

Brain drain is a phenomenon strongly related to immigration and especially migration from poorer to richer countries. During the last decades, the term has been used to describe the emigration or movement of educated and skilled people from one nation or region to another, often in quest of better job opportunities, higher salaries and improved living conditions.

Brain drain has significant impacts on a country and its industries. If the well-educated leave the country, who will develop new business, create jobs, and drive economic growth? Thus, a key challenge in the less developed countries is that limited resources are spent on educating doctors, nurses, engineers, and business graduates, only to see them migrate abroad (Harvard Business Review 2016).

Nepal, where a half of the households have a family member working abroad (IOM 2021), is a good example of a country affected by brain drain. According to Dahal (10.11.2023), the main reasons for brain drain are limited job and career opportunities as the country suffers from political instability, low salary levels, a poor education system and lacks advanced industries. The differences in income encourage educated people to look for a better quality of life abroad. The political instability in the country has a negative impact on businesses and investments, resulting in poor safety and social unrest. Moreover, nepotism, i.e., the practice of favouring relatives and friends in job appointments, contributes to brain drain as it limits opportunities for educated professionals. (Dahal 10.11.2023.)

However, from a societal point of view, brain drain is not just negative. According to World Bank (2023), migration has also positive impacts and can be a strong force for development. The country receives income as the families receive remittances from abroad. In fact, the income from workers abroad brings in money to the national economy, thereby supporting investments and job opportunities. The large amount of workers abroad also reduces unemployment and poverty. Additionally, the workers gain new skills and knowledge during the work abroad and when they hopefully come back, they can enhance the development of domestic businesses.

Intervening in the brain drain with the ENCORE project

The ENCORE project aimed at increasing the entrepreneurial skills and competences of university staff in the target countries. Haaga-Helia experts were involved in the trainings and coaching of staff at the Nepali, Lao and Bhutanese universities. One of the main outcomes of the project was establishing Entrepreneurship Knowledge Centres (EKCs) at six universities in the target countries.

The EKC-centres function as hubs for entrepreneurship training and knowledge sharing, inviting local entrepreneurs and industry partners to collaborate with students and staff. Most of the events at the centres have been business idea competitions and pitching events. The hubs have entrepreneurial resources and EU-financed technology offering a modern space for work and learning. The idea is that the centres could be hubs of entrepreneurial activity and training, similar to our StartUp School at Haaga-Helia.

There is no easy solution for preventing or reversing brain drain. Various stakeholders must be included in the process of reforming the education sector to improve education quality and modernise teaching and learning strategies. The ENCORE project supported this and a study was conducted in Pakistan showing that it is important to enhance entrepreneurial mindset through education (Munawar et al. 2020).

The ENCORE project aimed at training university lecturers, bringing in new learning approaches and entrepreneurship centers where entrepreneurial thinking could flourish and spread to the region. At least in small ways, the project managed to spark entrepreneurial mindset and transform individuals. This work has been described in more detail in our articles Enhancing entrepreneurial mindset at universities in Laos, Bhutan and Nepal and Encore: enhancing entrepreneurial mindset in Asia.

A student from Global Business College in Kathmandu put it this way during the final seminar in Luang Prabang, Laos, in December 2023: “The Encore project completely changed my mind. My intention was to look for a job abroad, but now I want to start my own business in Nepal”.


Dahal, A. 10.11.2023. Brain Drain in Nepal: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions. Accessed: 13.2.2024.

Harvard Business Review 2016. Preventing and reversing brain drain. Accessed: 13.2.2024

Munawar, U., Gul, F. & Noreen, S. 2021. Are push and pull factors for entrepreneurship and brain drain same? Perception of students and professionals. Journal of Business and Tourism. 6 (2). Accessed: 13.2.2024.

World Bank. 2023. World Development Report 2023. Accessed: 13.2.2024

Editing: Marianne Wegmüller

Picture: Shutterstock