School:Wake Forest University

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Student innovation and entrepreneurship

The Wake Forest Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship (CICE) leads the entrepreneurship community at Wake Forest University. This center was developed in 2003 and since then has grown to be the most popular minor on campus. The Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship is considered an academic program which has allowed the Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise (ESE) minor to brand itself on campus. By this I mean that students recognize the minor because it is not hidden in the business school or in a large academic department. This center has developed its niche on campus and expanded throughout all disciplines and across all majors on campus. Students at Wake Forest University have found this minor extremely useful, practical and fun. It allows the science and liberal arts students to develop their passion into a venture or practical entity in which they can make an impact. Each year, more students declare an ESE minor showing the growing importance of innovation and entrepreneurship to students. As of the 2015 academic year, the ESE minor is the most popular minor.  

The three focuses of this program for students has been as follows:

1) Cultivation of widespread innovation and entrepreneurship on campus

This goal has raised awareness of the importance of entrepreneurship across disciplines in the 21st century. Students at Wake Forest avail themselves of the collaborative environment on campus to create an impact and improve their university, community and region. Each year about 4 to 8 startups are founded through the CICE program on campus. These ventures span from efficient door-to-door  laundry services (Wake Wash) to a buy back company for broken cell phones (Buyback Boss) all of which provide credence to the healthy I&E environment on campus.  Furthermore, students in the liberal arts and science colleges are able to learn about grant writing, business plans, industry analysis, and forecasting through Seed Grant Workshops conducted by the ESE program each semester. These workshops prepare students for grant writing and pitching ideas to CICE faculty for seed grants funds. Students are provided with guidance from CICE faculty, the advisory counsel, and connections through the university. In the spring, the Entrepreneurship community will welcome its first Entrepreneur in Residence who will co-teach classes and provide students with an invaluable resource. Lastly, large events have such as Global Entrepreneurship Week, I.C.E Speaker Series, and TEDxWakeForestU have added to the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem at Wake Forest. 

2) Strength the value and relevance of Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship in a liberal arts education

Through this goal students are exposed to a wide variety of classes, clubs, and possible internships. The ESE minor requires core courses but also allows students to branch out and take a multitude of interdisciplinary courses which expose students to how they can mix innovation and entrepreneurship into their passion. Furthermore, two major clubs, the E-Society and Enactus have developed this program into a prominent entity on campus for student entrepreneurs. Lastly, the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship bolsters this sense of combining entrepreneurship into your passion by allocating funds for summer internship stipends. This allows students to start their own venture over the summer or work for a venture anywhere in the world while having some financial support. 

3) Augmentation of the social entrepreneurship scene through new experiential learning

The University motto of Pro Humanitate (For Humanity) is held dear to many of us here at Wake Forest. We believe that social impact and entrepreneurship can lead to great impact on campus and throughout our local community. The CICE has focused on providing students with classes to learn more about potential social opportunities as well as how to make social impacts vs. commercial impacts. This distinction can sometimes be difficult; however, with new reinvented programs and classes, the Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship hopes to educate students keeping the idea of Pro Humanitate in the forefront. 

Overall, I am extremely hopeful for the student innovation and entrepreneurship on Wake Forest's campus. For the future, I see several changes that can increase student collaboration, opportunity, and entrepreneurship on campus

Faculty innovation and entrepreneurship

Looking at the big picture which encompasses both the Wake Forest campus, Wake Forest Baptist Medical School, and Wake Forest Biotech Place there is a great deal of faculty innovation and entrepreneurship. Through a newly developed biotech place, faculty from the Medical School and Undergraduate Campus are able to find space and resources needed to grow their ideas. This 242,000 square foot and 100 million dollar building now provides the best most cutting edge technology needed to innovate and bring technology to market. 

Specifically on the Undergraduate Campus, 25 different faculty members across many areas of interest/disciplines come together to teach students about creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship because they see the importance of a diversified education. As of now, the entrepreneurship community has one endowed chair, Dr. Bill Conner Farr Professor of Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. He leads the academic side of entrepreneurship on campus and plays an active role advocating for faculty entrepreneurship on the Undergraduate Campus.  In the future, I would like to see more innovation and entrepreneurship come from faculty outside of science disciplines. I think it is important for students to see how their interests can be transferred in innovative ways in order to make an impact. In the spring, Wake Forest will welcome its first Entrepreneur in Residence which will provide students with an important resource and hopefully set an example to faculty as entrepreneurs. 

University technology transfer function

The university technology transfer function is lead by the Office of Technology and Asset Management (OTAM) at Wake Forest University. This office provides students and faculty with crucial resources during the startup to early growth stages. OTAM acts as an advocate and mentor to students and faculty along the process of commercializing, protecting, licensing, or developing their venture. OTAM can discuss strategies about partnerships, intellectual property, patent protection, commercialization, scientific contract services, funding,  and ownership. Many times, these services come at a high cost to entrepreneurs; however, within the university students and faculty can take advantage of these resources and knowledge centers as they prepare to enter the market. This center believes in three main services for students and faculty:

1) Product Innovation and Commercialization Services

2) Scientific Business Services

3) Innovation Quarter Services

University-Industry collaboration

University-Industry collaboration has continued to grow over the past couple of years with the completion of Wake Forest Biotech Place. This allows university faculty and students to work together in wet or dry lab with industry partners. This new facility provides both parties with an conducive environment to research, innovate, and entrepreneur. Currently, 32 innovative companies use lab space within Biotech place showing its new found importance to the university and industry partners alike. In addition, Wake Forest has many departments there including the Wake Forest Regenerative Medicine, Biochemistry/Structural Biology, and Biomedical Engineering. All together, the main goal of this space is to create a hub for biomedical and information technology companies to interface with academic groups and exchange knowledge/ideas to better the lives of people all over the world. I see Biotech Place as a great opportunity for university students to gain vital experience taking products from the bench side to the market place. Hopefully, in time Biotech Place facilitate more interaction with the Undergraduate Campus allowing students to benefit from this unique interaction between academic and industry groups. Right now, few students actually know what is happening in Biotech Place or the downtown Winston Salem area. At the same time, Biotech Place is removed from the Undergraduate Campus by a ten minute drive which further segments this groundbreaking facility from students.  

Regional and local economic development efforts

The regional and local economic development efforts are very deep and complex in Winston Salem and Wake Forest University. Originally, Winston Salem was home to many tobacco factories where Reynolds cigarettes were rolled. Fast forwarding some decades after the cigarette industry began to move out of Winston Salem, the downtown area was completely abandon with large tobacco factories which were once economic hubs, now completely empty. Years later, in the 1990's a Wake Forest academic group moved to this downtown area and renovated a space to conduct their research. Slowly, a new idea hatched that would transform the old buildings that once fueled the Winston Salem economy, into a biotechnology research park. This research park would create a new innovative and entrepreneurial economy in Winston Salem. Now, after two decades we are seeing the product of a great vision of a new hub where science, technology, and business can all come together. The hope is that the energy and revitalization of the downtown area will bring a new spark to the Winston Salem economy and therefore regional/local development.

Landscape Canvas

Fall 2015 Landscape Canvas


TEDx has become a signature event in showcasing innovation and entrepreneurship at Wake Forest. University Innovation Fellow Christina Oelsner and her two TEDx co-chairs attracted over 1,000 participants with a slate of speakers that included alumn Ricky Van Ween, founder of

TEDxWakeForest began in 2012 spearheaded by University Innovation Fellow Lucy Lan and her team who attracted close to 1,400 participants featuring TED Fellow and Wake scientist Anthony Atala who is known for his work in 3D-printing a human kidney using stem cells.

The first University Innovation Fellow at Wake Forest was Billy Oelsner.


Overall, the I&E ecosystem at Wake Forest has a very strong foundation to build on. The class selection through the ESE along with the various I&E resources throughout campus (TEDx, startup workshops, E-Society) have provided a solid layout for future University Innovation Fellows to work on. 

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