School:Texas Tech University

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With over 60 centers and institutes in addition to recently being named a Tier 1 Research Instiution by the Carnegie Foundation, research is strong throughout many departments within Texas Tech University.  However, efforts are continuously being made to translate this research and innovation into industry and commerical application. With the recent construction of the Research Park & Innovation Hub, resources are readily available to startups and technology commercialization initiatives. When summed together, these effots result in massive strides forward for the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Texas Tech. 

Promoting Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship:

Texas Tech University hosts a number of student organizations that promote the concepts and practice of and engage students in innovation and entrepreneurship:

Texas Tech Innovation Mentorship and Entrepreneurship (TTIME) is a student organization for both undergraduate and graduate students of any discipline. This program promotes entrepreneurship through connecting students with innovative faculty mentors, local entrepreneurs, and the resource channels to go from concept to customer.

The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) currently hosts Red Raider Startup, an intensive, bi-annual, weekend-long event that exposes students to the science of successfully starting a business. From idea, to market validation, to the investor pitch, students gain invaluable entrepreneurial experience while simultaneously expanding their skill set.The OVPR also hosts the Kinetic accelerator cohort, an annual, semester-long program. Kinetic contains two sections; technology commercialization and student entrepreneurs who are looking thorough mentorship and guidance for their own startup.

The Media Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group is a student organization from the College of Media and Communications that promotes startup media companies and entrepreneurial projects. They host multiple pitch competitions, speaker series, and events where student entrepreneurs can come together and share ideas and experiences.

Texas Tech also has a chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneur Organization, which through the College of Business promotes entrepreneurship.

For those who are interested in a technical entrepreneurial experience, the Software Development Club aims to help members hone their skills and channel it into ways to solve real-world problems. Although being a relatively new organization, the leadership team is making efforts to become an impactful part the entrepreneurship community at Texas Tech.

At the undergraduate level, student innovation is fostered through the many research opportunities. While funding is available for students to travel to conferences to present their research, little assistance is available for student to turn their research into a startup.  

Encouraging Faculty Innovation and Entrepreneurship:

Faculty's primary responsibility lies in research; however, moderate participation in entrepreneurial endeavors (60/40) should also be encouraged. With extensive dedication to teaching and research responsibilities, faculty can devote upwards of 60 to 80 hours of their time on these two areas.Therefore, expecting them to also chase after companies to buy into their research or consider their patent portfolio should be incentivized for doing extra work.

The Office of Research Commercialization (ORC) does provide a way for research to be patented and commercialized, however, the system doesn't have the best reputation. One professor has had several research discoveries rejected as patents, and within weeks or months of publishing his research large companies came forward to ask him to give a talk on it. So the university missed out on an opportunity because people in the ORC didn't understand the potential value of the research. The old system (according to faculty and staff) didn't include a rigorous enough process for evaluating the value of research. It's currently undergoing changes that were started after new leadership took over.

Actively Supporting the University Technology Transfer Function:

It is the responsibility of the Office of Research Commercialization to recognize when a technology is considered groundbreaking, especially after winning many accolades (i.e. Dr. Harvinder Gill's Pollen and Microneedle patents). Staff should be taught to analyze and interface with faculty regularly following up with faculty on their projects and  interest in industry partners. It would help if there were subject matter experts in the office with technical qualifications in the faculty disciplines; be it a PhD in engineering, Biology, Computer Science and MBA and a JD. The staff in the commercialization office needs to be motivated

A relatively new avenue for research commercialization is the Kinetic accelerator. It's run by someone with many years of experience in this field and they specifically encourage students to take on the task of commercializing TTU research and patents.

Facilitating University-Industry Collaboration:

There needs to be a reward or incentive for faculty to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors. Such a reward could be university sponsored funding for the most innovative technology idea. Also, faculty needs to know their interests will be protected and that the technology will be licensed to qualified personnel or businesses.

Additional resources for building up your startup are available through the OVPR and ORC, including the best mentors available in the area. One of the main facilities is the Innovation Hub at Research Park, where startups can have office space (sometimes free for a limited time).

Engaging with Regional and Local Economic Development Efforts:

Improvements can be made regarding the establsihment and maitenance of alumni network relations. Whenever new technologies are developed that can interface with industry, it is important to utilize the knowledge and experince of alumni by presenting opportunities,seeking their input, and utilizing their connections to the applicable industry.

Another present insufficiency is the lack of community outreach and involvement. There are several people in the community who are trying to get projects going that will encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, and it would be beneficial to have TTU helping bring these projects forward (either through advice or advertising through the student population). The more intermixing and collaboration between Texas Tech and Lubbock communities, the more robust and profound each entrepreneurship community will be. A notable organzation worth collaboration with is ULabs. Despite being new, the stakeholders involved exercise a passionate vision to make it a permanent feature of the Lubbock community.

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