School:University of New Hampshire
The University of New Hampshire is one of only 17 institutions in the nation designated as a land, sea, and space grant. As a premier research institution, UNH is home to a wide array of high quality faculty of diverse fields of study who share an interest in tackling the grand challenges of the day. The focus on inspiring and transforming students, especially through enriching programs of study with hands-on research experiences provides an excellent platform for students the engage in innovation and entrepreneurship. The newly formed ECenter (entrepreneurship center) was created to fill some of the final gaps in the I&E ecosystem by creating a centralized, college agnostic, integrated solution, it’s even equipped with a student-run makerspace. One challenge before us is that students, for the most part, have not discovered how or why I&E is important to them. They have not discovered that they are the change agents the world needs, and that they have the power to help address some of the most grandiose challenges of the day. The second challenge to the UNH I&E landscape is that if UNH’s legislative support were to be doubled tomorrow, it would still be the least state funded public school in the nation; receiving about 10% of the annual budget from the state compared a national average of around 50%.
ENCOURAGING FACULTY INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
There are many serial entrepreneurs among the UNH faculty, as well as many research areas which demonstrate exciting potential commercial applications. UNHInnovation - the department home to the ECenter, technology transfer office, and more - does actively encourage and support faculty engaging in entrepreneurship. The university is also in a period of ushering in newer and younger faculty, who have a different perspective on launching a start-up out of their research. There is interest in leveraging that change within the university leadership to promote the encouragement of faculty innovators. Events such as the annual Innovators Dinner are crucial to the celebration of faculty innovators and provide a cultural mechanism to reinforce the importance of I&E.
UNH has a strong technology transfer office, which works closely with researchers to provide not only intellectual asset management support, but also a wide array of business development resources. The technology transfer office also engages in outreach efforts to encourage the disclosure of inventions that might otherwise have gone unreported. It also encourages and supports inventors of technology who are commercializing their innovations, or the technology transfer office will work to find a licensee bringing royalties to the inventors, their department, and the University at large.
UNIVERSITY - INDUSTRY COLLABORATION
Under the guidance of the UNHInnovation office, a new initiative to create a holistic centered approach to corporate, public, and economic engagement is beginning. There is an innovative, high-powered staff dedicated to promoting new relationships with partners in research collaboration, technology licensing, academic partnerships, workforce preparation, and donations solicitation.
It is a spectacular time to be an innovative student at UNH, with the chance to bear witness to the sweeping positive changes underway. Not to say that there are no challenges. It is important to encourage more students to think about taking on the grand challenges of the day. This includes creating in-roads between the silos that arise out of differences in fields of specialization by promoting interdisciplinary interactions. It also means creating a shared mechanism to introduce students in all disciplines to innovation and entrepreneurship to teach it as a mindset to form a common basis as they go on to learn specialized skills. Finally, we need to find a source of funding to support these new initiatives and grow those already in place.