Missouri University of Science and Technology
- 1 Overview
- 2 Promoting Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship
- 3 Encouraging Faculty Innovation and Entrepreneurship
- 4 University Technology Transfer
- 5 Facilitating University-Industry Collaboration
- 6 Engaging with Regional and Local Economic Development Efforts
- 7 The Landscape Canvas
Missouri University of Science and Technology (also known as Missouri S&T, and formerly University of Missouri - Rolla (UMR), and originally Missouri School of Mines and Metalurgy (MSM)) is a mid-sized public university in Rolla, Missouri specializing in engineering and the sciences. The school host over 6000 undergraduates and over 2000 graduate students.
Chancellor Schrader has identified four key themes within her strategic plan for the university:
- Inspire creative thinkers
- Raise visibility
- Ensure return on investment
- Increase meaningful interaction
Each of these four themes has a variety of actionable "levers" for accomplishing the goals set out in the plan. The growth of programs in creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship will support many of these levers.
Promoting Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Missouri S&T's student entrepreneurship excels in the areas of skills building (due in large part to its extensive opportunities for skills-building). Significant improvement is possible in the areas of student discovery of innovation and entrepreneurship, the facilitation of creative thinking and experimenting with potential entrepreneurial endeavors, and the pursuit and actuallization of a real endeavor. Existing and proposed programs for support these areas for students are presented below.
Student Design Teams
In recent years Missouri S&T has emphasized the concept of experiential learning among its students. Lever 1.1 of the university's strategic plan states that the university shall "require all undergraduate students to participate in some significant experiential learning activity before they graduate". These experiential learning activities have played a critical role in developing innovation and entrepreneurship skills in students (the second step, "Learn", in the landscape canvas presented below).
Traditionally experiential learning opportunities have centered around S&T's student design teams. Of the university's over 6000 undergraduates, over 800 students participated in at least one of the Student Design and Experiential Learning Center's (SDELC) fourteen student design teams in the last year. Student design teams have provided undergraduate students with opportunity to apply skills to solve real-world problems in a competitive environment. The teams are independently managed by the students, who conduct the majority of the adminstrative, business, PR, fundraising, engineering, manufacturing, and management activities of the team. The SDELC provides students with extensive 24/7 access to a machine shop, design studio, electronics lab, composites lab, welding equipment, and general fabrication space, all for design team activities. The challenging and independent nature of the design teams has foster a culture of creativity and innovation among the participating students (whether or not they realize it). Currently, the SDELC supports the following 14 teams:
- Advanced Aero Vehicle Group (AAVG)
- Baja SAE
- Concrete Canoe
- Engineers without Borders
- Formula SAE
- Formula SAE Electric
- Human-Powered Vehicle
- Hydrogen Design Solutions
- International Genetically-Engineered Machines (iGEM)
- Mars Rover
- Solar Car
- Solar House
- Steel Bridge
Missouri S&T's strength in experiential learning activities has fostered the growth of student skills in the areas of creativity and innovation; and with additional programming these skills could be translated into the development of solutions for entrepreneurial endeavors. Furthermore the pursuit of entrepreneurial activities opens up the numerous new pathways for experiential learning, critical to supporting the growth in activities mandated in Lever 1.1 of the strategic plan.
Technical Innovators and Entrepreneurs Society
While Missouri S&T's strength has been building the practical skils of its students through the above activities, some programming does exist for directly supporting entrepreneurial activities. The Technical Innovators and Entrepreneurs Society (TIES) is Missouri S&T's student entrepreneurship club. TIES seeks to build a community of student entrepreneurs, support them through networking and physical resources, and introduce new students to the concepts of innovation and entrepreneurship. Traditionally this has been accomplished by hosting events such as hackathons and pitch competitions open to the general student population. Additionally, TIES members have access to resources such as 3D printers for prototyping their ideas.
In order to further support S&T's need to facilitate students' "discovery" of the concepts of innovation and entrepreneurship, TIES is launching a weekly speaker series in the Spring semester of 2015. The events will be open to the public and host a variety of successful entrepreneurs, VCs, NGOs and non-profits, and other startup founders, many of whom are S&T alumni. The event seeks to both introduce innovation and entrepreneurship to students, and inspire them to pursue their desire to learn more.
Student Business Incubator
Missouri S&T's Student Business Incubator (SBI) support students in the execution of startup companies. The SBI provides them with free office space and some advisory resources. The program is managed by the university's Technology Transfer and Economic Development Office.
Innovation @ S&T
Missouri S&T in recent years has started this program with the ultimate goal of fostering innovation and entrepreneurship on campus by providing funding to proposed ventures. A grand total of $300,000 has been set aside for this specific program. Groups interested in making a difference on campus are encouraged to apply and sumbit a proposal. Some prior submitted proposals which have also been approved include Maker Spaces for students, orientation week workshops focused on innovation and entrepreneurial skills, and even funding for UIF canidates from S&T. More information can be found here.
In an effort to augment facilities already on campus, 2015 and 2016 UIF canidates have successfully campaigned for the creation of a campus makerspace. The makerspace will house design and mechanical tools for testing and validating prototypes. Students can "collide" or socialize ideas, build prototypes, with facultly and staff. Sophisticated 3D fabrication utilities will also be housed here, along with more common tools for sawing, sanding, etc. The space can be linked to curriculum and programs for knowledege creation ultimately translating to technical skill building.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship Minor
Encouraging Faculty Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The growth of programs supporting faculty engagement in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship would support multiple areas of the strategic plan, most notably "1.2 Foster innovation and creativity for faculty, staff, students, and administration." The majority of existing faculty activities in innovation and entrepeneurship have focused on the licensing of research technology to third-party industry collaborators. This activity has been encouraged and facilitated by the university's Technology Transfer Office.
A recent push for faculty participation in the NSF I-Corps program has identified the unversity's latent potential for direct research commercialization. The pursuit of an I-Corps Site designation would open numerous new avenues for faculty engagement in innovation and entrepreneurship programs.
In general, additional programs educating faculty in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship and those fostering the growth of an entrepreneurial culture are essential to the development of the university's latent research potential.
University Technology Transfer
As mentioned in the previous section, technology transfer at the university has typically taken the form of the licensing of research technology to third-party industry partners. Faculty-run startups, though supported by the Technology Transfer Office (often through STTR and SBIR programs), are quite rare in comparison to third-party licensing.
Facilitating University-Industry Collaboration
University-industry collaboration is perhaps another one of S&T's greatest strengths. The majority of the university's advancement efforts are supported by industry collaborators who assist the university in identifying the real-world needs of its students and faculty. Extensive collaboration exists in the university's numerous research centers and labs, student design and research activities, and student career development activities. These extensive university-industry collaborations support the extensive technology licensing activities described in the previous section.
Engaging with Regional and Local Economic Development Efforts
St. Louis is the nearest major metropolitan center to Rolla, and in recent years has seen the development of a rapdily growing entrepreneurship community. The creation of numerous business incubators and accelerators (T-REX, CIC, Cortex, etc.), funding sources (Arch Grants, Capital Innovators, Cultivation Capital, etc.), mentoring groups (ITEN, etc.), and other resources has lead to the growth of hundreds of new startups in the past few years.
These extensive regional resources provide the best opportunities for the spinning-out of commercial entities from university activities. The connections between university innovation and entrepreneurship programs and these regional organizations need to be matured to sustain successful, scalable commercialization activities.
The Landscape Canvas
The landscape canvas presented below summarizes Missouri S&T's existing and proposed programs and resources for supporting entrepreneurship and innovation. These entities are organized into five phases of the pursuit of these activities: Discovery, Learning, Experiment, Pursue, and Spin-Out. It is clear that S&T's experiential learning activities along with an array of I&E themed courses have led to a mature learning phase, and St. Louis's expanding ecosystem has created strong opportunities for spinning-out new startups. All five categories can be improved and refined in their options, but S&T could stand to improve the most in the areas of discovering innovation and entrepreneurship, facilitating the experimentation of potential startup problem domains and solutions, and the active pursuit and execution of startup activities in the university context.
Missouri University of Science and Technology
University Innovation Fellows