School:Louisiana Tech University

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Campus Overview

Promoting student innovation and entrepreneurship

Louisiana Tech University offers many opportunities for all of the nearly 13,000 students on campus to explore their interests in innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E). To facilitate open access of I&E resources to all students, the university established the Innovation Enterprise group which is independent of any college on campus as its sole focus is promoting I&E on campus and in the region. One of the most visible projects of Innovation Enterprise is the Thingery, a maker space on campus that has tools for rapid-prototyping including 3D printers, screen-printing stations, a CNC router, a laser cutter, and more. The Thingery also hosts workshops for all students to learn how to use the tools available and further their skills in design. Another way students can get involved is through a new workshop called Fundamentals for Founders. Being led by local executives with experience, the opportunity is open to the community. In addition to the makerspace, LaTech hosts two idea pitch competitions and a venture championship event every year to help students present their ideas to entrepreneurs in the region and receive the training and feedback necessary to grow those ideas into startups. In the classroom, engineering students are introduced to design thinking and product development during their first years as part of the freshmen “Living with the Lab” course. The business college offers a Bachelor of Arts in Management with a concentration on Entrepreneurship that provides many courses on different aspects of starting a business such as business plan development and human resources management for small businesses. Both engineering students and business students, along with art students, are offered the chance to take “Innovative Product Design”, a course that takes students through the process of forming a startup within a quarter. Engineering and entrepreneurship students can then take a senior design capstone project class where they spend the year in teams taking an idea and creating a startup from that idea. Architecture students have a junior course where they design and construct an architectural structure that solves a need for the local community (for the past few years they have done multiple projects for MedCamps, a non-profit camp for children with disabilities). New to campus is a collaborative space for students with entrepreneurial projects to develop their ideas and work to make them a reality while being able to collaborate and interact with other students working towards similar goals. In addition to university-sponsored I&E activities, students are starting to take leadership in progressing I&E on campus through student organizations. An innovation club was started in 2016, and in 2017 the entrepreneurship club has started an attempt to revitalize its engagement with students and grow its presence on campus.

Encouraging faculty innovation and entrepreneurship

Louisiana Tech University has many research centers on campus involving faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students that provide opportunities for developing new technologies. Encouraging innovation, establishing technological breakthroughs, and creating economic value for the region are all highly valued by the university and any opportunities to do so are encouraged. Research and economic developments of developed technologies are practiced within the College of Engineering and Science where many professors spend the bulk of their time. Here, they can lead research endeavors or run a side business (oftentimes with their graduate students) that make use of the technologies produced during research. The university has a system in place to retain a percentage of profits from technologies and patents developed with university resources, but it is not so large a percentage that faculty refrain from pursuing further development.

Actively supporting the university technology transfer function

LaTech has a technology transfer office called the Office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization that is an educational and management resource for faculty and students pursuing a patent and licensing paths. It specifically focuses on facilitating the process of faculty assessing the commercial potential of their inventions and discoveries, and then negotiating with industrial partners to get the technology developed into applications that benefit society. There is also a “Tech Transfer and Commercialization” course offered to graduate business and engineering students to educate them on the process of successfully transitioning their intellectual works from the university to the market.

Facilitating university-industry collaboration

A few years ago the university broke ground on the Enterprise Campus- a research park on campus whose goal is to utilize the intellectual and research strength of LaTech along with industry partners to bring a wealth of economic development to the region. The centerpiece of the Enterprise Campus is Tech Pointe, a commercial facility located between the College of Engineering and Science and the College of Business that provides leased space to high tech companies and startups who employ students. The arrangement provides companies access to students who are learning the newest and best practices in their fields while the students are able to graduate with multiple years of real world experience. This often sets them apart from other students who have only had academic experiences and summer internships. In addition to the Enterprise Campus, LaTech has invested in and advocated for the development of the National Cyber Research Park in Bossier City (roughly 60 miles away) which is working to develop a knowledge-based workforce as well as technology research and development in the region.

Engaging with regional and local economic development efforts

Aside from educating students who provide a major economic impact to the region both while in school and after graduating, the main vehicle through which LaTech works towards local and regional economic development is the efforts of the Innovation Enterprise team. LA Tech recently lost funding to a program that provided training, mentorship, and networking opportunities strengthened by local investors and entrepreneurs. To encourage entrepreneurship, the Technology Business Development Center helps with the process of starting, operating, and leaving an innovative business venture. Opened to the region, opportunities are held all throughout Northern Louisiana. On top of help from the community, Louisiana Tech was one of many schools in the region to receive funding from the New Louisiana Angel Fund 2. While it is still a very recent thing, the funding will go to increasing the presence of innovation and entrepreneurship on Tech’s campus.

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