School:Arizona State University

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Overview – A New American University 3

President Michael M. Crow has positioned Arizona State University as the model for a New American University. The ASU Charter states that the university is "measured not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes and how they succeed; advancing research and discovery of public value; and assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves."

Embedded in the university's mission and goals, is the desire to "become a leading American center for innovation and entrepreneurship at all levels." For that reason, there are an extraordinary number of opportunities, mentorship and pitch programs, certificates, majors, minors, clubs, accelerators, as well as collaboration and maker spaces dedicated to fostering innovative and entrepreneurial practices at ASU.

In FY 2017, ASU:

  • Launched 15 start-up companies
  • Registered 84 US patents
  • Secured 97 major licencing and option agreements
  • Issued 277 invention disclosures

Institutionalizing Innovation

As of 2018, ASU has been ranked the most innovative university in the US for four consecutive years, according to a US News and World Report survey of academic leaders.This recognition speaks to the fact that ASU has a wide variety of organizational structures that help develop, support, grow, and maintain innovation and entrepreneurship. Here is a brief summary of the key divisions:

Knowledge Enterprise Development

Knowledge Enterprise Development (KED) is a transdisciplinary, multi-unit division which "advances research, innovation, strategic partnerships, entrepreneurship and economic development at ASU, in Arizona and globally." KED oversees a number of offices, initiatives, and institutes which help foster the translation of research to practice and the exchange of knowledge and resources into and out of the university. One of the key units is the Office of Entrepreneurship & Innovation which provides training, mentoring, funding, and networking resources to students, faculty, and the greater Phoenix community. KED also oversees ASU's many innovation zones, including the Skysong Innovation Center, ASU Research Park, and ASU's Polytechnic Campus, which is home to an innovative project-based engineering program run byThe Polytechnic School.

Office of the Knowledge Enterprise Architect 

The Office of the Knowledge Enterprise Architect (OKEA) is dedicated to advancing "the design and culture of the institution so ASU can accelerate on its trajectory of innovation, sustainably, well into the future."

These efforts are divided into three key areas:

  • Innovation Culture – embed an innovation mindset deeply into the ASU culture to empower faculty, staff and students to create impact through innovation.
  • Institutional Design – support ASU units and leaders to create capabilities in people, systems and structures so the institution can adapt and evolve to meet the complex needs of an ever-changing world.
  • Leadership Development – cultivate a leadership pipeline within the institution by identifying high-potential leaders, connecting them with people, resources, tools and collaborative networks and investing in their futures at ASU. 

University Initiatives

The Office of University Initiatives(UI) is a cultural catalyst at ASU. UI helps ASU meet its innovation needs by connecting ideas with people and resources to make an impact. Through collaboration with other offices and departments across the university, in addition to state, national and international leaders, UI helps to shape and realize ASU’s innovation goals. Much of UI’s work falls into five overlapping categories: advancing ASU’s New American University agenda, entrepreneurship, social embeddedness, university innovation, and education. UI is one of the chief advocates for entrepreneurial thinking and activity across the university.

Fulton Schools of Engineering 

ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering consists of two distinct types of engineering programs. While the university's main campus hosts the majority of majors and students, The Polytechnic School (formerly the College of Technology and Innovation) takes an uncommon approach, based on the values of engaged learning, including a strong connection with industry and entrepreneurship. The key curricular piece is the project-course spine, which scaffolds the curriculum from introductory classes through their senior capstone experience. For their capstone projects, students work in teams to build and design solutions to meet real industry needs; the model appears to be making an economic impact.

The engineering firm Honeywell, previously hired all College of Technology and Innovation students who worked on a successful airplane brake system. Separately from that, the city of Chandler, Arizona approved a 50-year lease with the College of Technology and Innovation. The city will retrofit a building to house the College’s teaching and research programs. These programs are estimated to provide a $23.8 million economic impact in the next five years, by providing the intellectual capital for the city’s high tech companies such as Intel.

Student Entrepreneurship

At Arizona State University, entrepreneurship is about bringing innovative ideas out into the world. These ideas might be socially, economically, artistically or intellectually motivated, or some combination thereof. Likewise,entrepreneurship is not concentrated in just the field of business, nor is it housed in an entrepreneurial institute or school. Instead, entrepreneurship opportunities are offered in and out of the classroom, and in a wide variety of programs departments and schools. These include:

The Edson Student Entrepreneurship Initiative is ASU’s premier student start-up competition. This year, students can win up to $20,000 in funding, as well as mentoring and office space to advance their venture ideas. The Initiative offers rolling admissions with two stages for advancement. Students can be placed in an incubator stage or an accelerator stage. Non-profit and for-profit initiatives are both encouraged. And students have responded with a number of innovative ventures. The G3Box project focuses on converting steel shipping containers into medical grade clinics by outfitting them with the basic components of power, ventilation, potable water, and insulation to create sustainable medical clinics that address critical health needs in poor countries.

The Edson Student Entrepreneurship Initiative harnesses the entrepreneurial energy, excitement and creativity of ASU’s student body. It provides funding, office space and training for teams of students across the university to explore their innovative ideas for business products and services. These teams typically work in partnership with faculty, researchers and successful entrepreneurs from both the academic and private sectors. The Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative has been made possible by an investment of $5.4 million from Orin Edson to the Arizona State University Foundation.

  • Funding:The endowment provides a total of $200,000 annually in seed funding.
  • Each year, 10 to 15 teams will be granted $5,000 to $20,000 to subsidize expenses for developing their new venture. Money granted could be used for such things as market research, building a prototype, and legal fees
  • Office Space:Winning teams are awarded office space at SkySong, located in South Scottsdale, through their award year.
  • The SkySong facility provides a professional setting for early stage entrepreneurs to develop their ventures and also to interact and learn from peer entrepreneurs, local, and international businesses
  • Training and Coaching:Throughout the award year teams participate in a series of workshops with guest speakers that include successful entrepreneurs and professionals with relevant expertise

The Performing Arts Venture Experience (P.A.V.E) paves the way to the future of the arts by investing in student innovation and creativity, supporting arts entrepreneurship education and undertaking entrepreneurial activities. Funded by a generous grant by the Kauffman Foundation, there are four major components of P.A.V.E:

  • Arts entrepreneurship classes such as Foundations of Arts Entrepreneurship, Arts Entrepreneurship Seminar, TheatreOrganization and Management and Independent Film;
  • Investment in, and support for, student initiated arts-based ventures, both for- and not-for-profit;
  • Faculty development and research in arts entrepreneurship; and
  • Public programming on arts entrepreneurship including speakers, workshops and symposia.

10,000 Solutions is a place to showcase and collect innovative ideas that solve local and global challenges. ASU views this project as an experiment that leverages the power of collaborative wisdom to create a solutions bank. The 10,000 Solutions Project explores what can be accomplished when passionate people join a community that works together to build upon each other’s innovative ideas and create change.

Funding:The program is funded by Kauffman Campuses Initiative which supports innovation and entrepreneurship at ASU and beyond. The program provides up to $10,000 to fund good ideas from students, staff, faculty and community members.

The Cronkite School students (and faculty) are encouraged to submit ideas for Knight News Challenge (and won) and for J-Lab Women Entrepreneurs grants. Those winners are heralded as much as winners of journalism contests

ASU also strives to deliver research breakthroughs and achieve discovery in a broad range of strategic research areas including:

  • The New Media Innovation Lab, Operated by The Cronkite School, is a research and development program designed to help media companies create new and exciting multimedia products. The lab brings together stu­dents from across campus – journal­ism, business, computer engineer­ing and design, to develop a variety of products, including an iPhone app and widgets and Facebook applica­tions.
  • The ASU College of Nursing and Health Innovation has had more than $27.5 million in awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other corporate agencies since 2005. The research focus of ASU nursing and health program provides short and long-term eco­nomic benefits. In the short term, Arizona benefits economically from grant funding. In the longer term, Arizonans benefit from medical improvements in research findings, and the commercial impact of potential tech transfer.
  • The Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation(AzCATI), located at ASU, has been a pioneer in algae research as a source of low-cost, sustainable biofuel. The Laboratory was contracted by the Department of Energy to research and develop algae conversion.

Startup Village

Startup Village is a student led initiative to create a residential community of innovators and entrepreneurs who will lead the I&E movement on the ASU Polytechnic campus, and create companies and movements within an immersive and collaborative environment. Startup Village is made up of 16 houses that house 30 student entrepreneurs and innovators as well as a community house for the purpose of housing prototyping equipment and collaborative spaces. ASU Chandler Innovation Center =

Faculty Entrepreneurship

ASU’s The Pathways to Entrepreneurship Grant(PEG) program provides funding to faculty/staff who wish to implement or enhance entrepreneurship curricular or co-curricular programs. The following programs all have some roots grounded in the in the Pathways to Entrepreneurship Grant.

Innovation Advancement Programat the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law: This program provides legal and consulting services to start-up enterprises and entrepreneurs.

  • Team Leader: Eric Menkus, Innovation Advancement Program Director. Amount Awarded: $90,000. Number of Grants Awarded: 2.

InnovationSpaceat the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts: Team Leader: Prasad Boradkar, InnovationSpace Program Director. Amount Awarded: $115,000. Number of Grants Awarded: 4

  • Grant funding introduces students to design concepts based on resilience theory (the ability of individuals to recover from destabilizing life events, such as a serious illness) and biomimicry (design inspired by nature). Students also worked with a local company to design toys for autistic children

The following programs are run from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences:

  • First Innovations: Team Leader: Pat Mariella, American Indian Policy Institute Director. Amount Awarded: $68,000. Number of Grants Awarded: 1
  • Grant funding provided for a two-day workshop, which was subsequently developed into three ASU courses and a summer program for high school students.
  • Phoenix Innovation Study: Team Leader: Sander van der Leeuw, School of Human Evolution and Social Change Director. Amount Awarded: $33,000. Number of Grants Awarded: 1
  • Funded research on ethnographic study of SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center.
  • Social Innovation and Social Enterprise: Team Leader: Vanna Gonzales, School of Social Transformation Assistant Professor. Amount Awarded: $30,000. Number of Grants Awarded: 1
  • Grant funding enables students to work with local social entrepreneurs to advance their organization’s goals through innovation.

The following programs are run out of The Polytechnic School:

  • Global Resolve: Team Leader: Mark Henderson, Global Resolve Director. Amount Awarded: $59,000. Number of Grants Awarded: 2
  • Funds development of capstone courses that engage students in creating ventures in developing countries using technologies that solve local challenges. These courses are now part of the core courses for the social entrepreneurship focus in the technological entrepreneurship and management degree program.
  • Startup Weekend ASU: Team Leader: Kevin Gary, College of Technology and Innovation Associate Professor. Amount Awarded: $39,000. Number of Grants Awarded: 1
  • Funding supports the development of courses in software entrepreneurship and launched the inaugural Startup Weekend at ASU.

The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers Collegeruns the Advancing P-20 Education Through Innovation and Entrepreneurship($5k), and the Innovation in Social Educational Entrepreneurship (I-SEE)($30k).

University Technology Transfer Functions

Arizona Technology Enterprises (AzTE)is the technology venture arm of Arizona State University. In addition to ASU technologies, AzTE also manages technologies developed by ASU's partner universities, Dublin City University in Ireland (through its technology commercialization organization, Invent DCU Limited) and Tec de Monterrey in Mexico. AzTE is located at SkySong and works in collaboration with ASU's Innovation and Entrepreneurshipto bolster these relationships. AzTE collaborates with each university to protect and commercialize their intellectual property in the United States.

ASU also has a number of activities focused on student entrepreneurship, global company attraction, and investor network development.  The addition of technology transfer to international collaborations increases the likelihood that global discoveries will be commercialized utilizing Arizona networks. Over time, ASU's development of vibrant global networks is expected to positively impact economic development in the State.

  • Among U.S. institutions with at least $200 million in research expenditures, AzTE ranked in the top ten for invention disclosures, licenses and options, and startups formed per $10 million in research.
  • ASU faculty submitted a record 187 invention disclosures in the fiscal year 2010. ASU expects these inventions will provide the technology inventory for the next generation of new deals for startups.

University-Industry Collaboration

The Sensor, Signal and Information Processing Center and Consortium(SenSIP)at ASU has been designated a National Science Foundation (NSF)Industry/University Collaborative Research Center. The consortium researchers have provided the mathematical and algorithmic groundwork for technology used in security systems, consumer electronics, medicine healthcare, nanotechnology, and other technologies including global positioning systems.

TechShop, (2013-2017) To further develop creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit in the communities ASU serves, in 2013 the university joined with TechShop, a membership-based, do-it-yourself facility that provides the public with tools, equipment, training and a vibrant, supportive community of creative people. TechShop membership provides access to over $1 million dollars worth of advanced machines and tools, sophisticated 2D and 3D design software, and other professional equipment. All full-time students at all 4 campuses are currently provided TechShop memberships free of charge.

The Aerospace and Defense Research Collaboratory, a consortium between ASU, UA and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, is intended to bridge the gap between education and industry through research. The Collaboratory is housed on ASU’s Polytechnic campus in the College of Technology and Innovation.

  • This research initiative is expected to boost Arizona’s economy, as well as attract other big corporations to the state

ASU's Biodesign Institutein collaboration with industry is engaged in a $5 million, four-year project to identify protein biomarkers that could predict cardiovascular disease in people with type 2 diabetes. The collaboration is sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases(NIDDK--part of the National Institutes of Health). Other collaborators in the project include Pfizerand the Phoenix VA Healthcare System. The money comes from a fund that is designed to support scientists from different disciplines to work together on a common problem.

Other ASU industry collaborations include: Adaptive Intelligent Materials and Systems Center (AIMS); Advanced Technology Innovation Center; Arizona Institute for Nano-Electronics (AINE), and the Arizona State University Research Park.

Regional and Local Economic Development

ASU’s unique assets – including intellectual capital, advanced facilities and student talent – are invaluable in developing a regional economic ecosystem where innovation-based firms can thrive. As a regional economic engine, ASU injects revenue back into the community through student, visitor, and staff spending, and by providing a stable source of employment for thousands of Arizonans.

More specifically, ASU provides the following economic impact in the regional and local economic development:   

  • ASU directly employsover 20,000 Arizonans, generating $961 million in wages;
  • Spending by visitors to ASU or sponsored eventsgenerated $69 million;
  • ASU student spendingdirectly generates $248 million of labor income in the state of Arizona;
  • ASU employee and student spendingpumps over $1.8 billion into the local economy every year; and
  • Arizona taxpayers invest$386 million a year in ASU, and realize a $3.4 billion economic yield on theirinvestmentestment

President Crow's Innovative Education

President Michael Crow of Arizona State University details his vision for the higher education system of the future in his book, " Designing the New American University". First and foremost, universities are evolving to become more complex and adaptive comprehensive knowledge enterprises, and they must be committed to discovery, creativity, and innovation.

The stressed need for discovery among all fields of research are important as the interconnectedness between all these fields are increasing, as mentioned by President Crow: "Major discoveries in one field quickly diffuse into another - say, from economics to sociology, or from psychology into economics. In short order, powerful concepts move from the initial field to cognate disciplines and from there into language of everyday life". The process in innovating higher education is purely entrepreneurial as the goal of this innovation is to disseminate knowledge to students more efficiently and effectively, and the function of entrepreneurs is to reform a certain pattern of production by exploiting and untried technological possibility. This is all representative of the new Arizona State University he is working towards.

In designing the New American University, it is important to understand the dynamics of knowledge and the conditions at which it is transferred and shared, as mentioned by Dr. Crow: "knowledge is situated, being in part a product of the activity, context, and culture in which it is developed and used... knowledge, organizational structure, and social relations are intrinsically interrelated". As us humans evolve along with our learning methods, higher educational systems must change to meet the needs of students.

Education must be informal yet structured, and experiential yet social.

Deep-Dive Questions

  • Is innovation an integral part of ASU’s institutional culture?
  • Why is it important? And how does it influence entrepreneurship and tech transfer?
  • How do you envision your program in the future?
  • What is your vision for each case study’s bucket, especially regional and local economic impact?
  • How does your institution leverage (or intend to leverage) geographic endowment?
  • Are your innovation, entrepreneurship, and tech transfer programs integrated?
  • Why, or why not?
  • How has ASU’s "one university in many places" (multiple campuses & ASU Online) model hindered or helped faculty and student innovation?
  • Are there any unique successes (and/or challenges) you wish to highlight?


Even with successful and innovative programs, about 20 percent of the university’s population may not fully accept change towards innovation and entrepreneurship. However, experience provides a helpful ameliorative blueprint. Consistency and a clear articulation of the president’s vision usually earn the respect of skeptics. ASU’s quest as a New American University has also been helped by the President’s intuitive understanding of internal constituencies, and an ability to maintain enough dynamism to make concessions where necessary. President Crow has also built a capable and competent senior leadership team. Most importantly, ASU’s leadership team recognizes that innovation, by necessity, means not being constrained by conventional thinking. Thus with creativity, there are no obstacles that cannot be managed.

For an in depth look at our campus's offerings, take a look at our University Innovation Landscape Canvas. 

Mr. James O'Brien's comments have been instructive in better understanding ASU’s leadership role in promoting innovation, entrepreneurship, and the commercialization of research in the nation’s universities, in addition to the impact of the NACIE commitment letter in framing ASU’s strategic plans and institutional culture.

The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship welcomes ASU’s assistance with this case study, and looks forward to a continued close and collaborative relationship in building America’s innovation infrastructure.

Comments by: James O'Brien, Vice President, & Chief of Staff Office Of The President

University Initiatives (UI):
Edson Student Entrepreneurship Initiative:
ASU Innovation Challenge:
10,000 Solutions:
From page 57:
$5 Million Collaboration:
ASU Economic Impacts:

Related Links

2018 Landscape Canvas

2018 Contributors



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