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Department of Commerce Report and Wiki Launch

On November 1, 2013 University Innovation Fellows launched this wiki platform for students to share information and best practices about innovation and entrepreneurship at their schools. The wiki provides student leaders in academia with resources and how-to strategies for enhancing the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem on campus. Information on courses and programs also enables students on campus to find resources to advance their skills in topics such as creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, commercialization, technology translation and venture development.

The launch of the wiki coincided with the release of the report, “The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University: Higher Education, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Focus," published by the Department of Commerce. Eleven 'deep dives' into innovative and entrepreneurial universities provide best practices for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting student and faculty entrepreneurship, university-industry collaboration, technology transfer and regional economic development. At the time, the data shared by the Department of Commerce report were accompanied by 21 deep dives completed by University Innovation Fellows.

Five Categories

The Report profiled 14 higher education institutions by along five parameters. They are described below:

  • Promoting student innovation and entrepreneurship
"Colleges and universities are investing heavily in the development of their students’ entrepreneurial skills. While many students dream of starting the next Facebook® or Twitter® (both of which were started by students), universities are more focused on the pedagogical value of entrepreneurship as a set of skills that can be applied across professional environments and activities to supplement the students’ classroom experience. Universities are investing both in formal programs as well as in extra-curricular activities to channel students’ interest in solving global problems through entrepreneurship. Examples of formal programs include degrees and certificates in entrepreneurship, while examples of extra-curricular activities include business plan contests, entrepreneurship clubs, and startup internships. Many universities are even experimenting with on-campus accelerators, entrepreneurial dorms, and student venture funds. At the very least, these activities provide critical organizational skills to students, and at the very best, may create the next great university spinoff."
  • Encouraging faculty innovation and entrepreneurship
"Faculty and doctoral graduate students conduct the research powering many of the innovations that spawn high-growth startups. However, even at our nation’s most entrepreneurial universities, many faculty and graduate students do not always consider the market and societal relevance of their research. To address this issue, universities are putting in place a series of policy changes to encourage more faculty entrepreneurship, which in turn will complement the student entrepreneurship. These changes include greater recognition of faculty entrepreneurs, integrating entrepreneurship into the faculty tenure and selection process, and increasing faculty connections to outside partners - through externships, engagement with business, and targeted resources for startup creation. Finally, universities are actively working with federal agencies to address some of the regulatory challenges around faculty entrepreneurship, in particular, those related to conflict of interest and national security issues."
  • Actively supporting the university technology transfer function
"University Technology Transfer Offices (TTO) and Technology Licensing Offices (TLO) have traditionally been the hubs within universities where innovators and outside business leaders engage to commercialize inventions. The recent burst of entrepreneurship on campuses has greatly expanded the role of the TTOs and TLOs. Instead of merely focusing on the commercialization of individual technologies, these offices now act as a central point where students, faculty, alumni, entrepreneurs, investors, and industry can connect with each other. These offices are now focused on identifying and supporting entrepreneurship on campus, helping startups find the best opportunities and building successful business models, changing the culture of their universities, and creating companies that will be based in the communities around the university. TTOs and TLOs have also expanded support beyond their traditional areas, such as energy and life sciences, into education, social innovation, and agriculture."
  • Facilitating University-Industry Collaboration
"Businesses and industry benefit greatly from university research and innovation. Universities are constantly looking for ways to connect their research and students’ education to emerging industry interests. In recent years, universities have put greater emphasis on supporting startup companies, while continuing to engage established companies that have traditionally been their licensing partners. To facilitate greater collaboration and innovation, universities are opening up their facilities, faculty, and students to businesses (small and large) in the hopes of creating greater economic value. Universities are strategically partnering with companies, offering internships and externships, sharing facilities with startups, such as accelerators, and creating venture funds and incentive programs funded by industry, all of which drive increased innovation and product development by university students, faculty, and staff."
  • Engaging with regional and local economic development efforts
"Historically, local economic development has been an important mission of the nation’s large universities. Many of America’s leading universities, particularly land-grant universities, have always felt a strong responsibility for the betterment of their surrounding communities. These days, universities are increasingly focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship as key contributors to the growth and success of local communities. Universities are requesting the federal government to include commercialization and innovation-driven economic development in their grant programs. In addition, regional economic development planning now often starts with an assessment of a local university’s research strengths. In turn, universities are seeking partners to supplement their strengths and overcome their weaknesses through partnerships with community colleges, non-profit economic development agencies, governments, and entrepreneurship groups. Some universities, such as Tulane University, are asking their students and faculty to contribute to local community development through service and projects. Others, such as North Carolina State University, are building innovation-driven campuses that help surrounding cities and communities prosper."

Related Links

Recognizing the release of the report during the Presidentially-declared Entrepreneurship Month, the|White House issued this blog post, recognizing the University Innovation Fellows, Epicenter and the launch of the wiki: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/11/05/startup-culture-flourishes-america-s-college-campuses

The Department of Commerce Report, “The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University: Higher Education, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Focus," is available here: http://www.eda.gov/pdf/The_Innovative_and_Entrepreneurial_University_Report.pdf