School:Wichita State University

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Wichita State University is a public research university of 15,000 students located in Wichita, Kansas, United States. In April of 2014, the university established its commitment towards an Innovation Campus with the purpose to transform the world through innovation, applied learning, entrepreneurship and economic impact. In line with the school’s vision and its multi-disciplinary concept, Wichita State University is starting to offer new avenues to encourage students and faculty to be innovative while attracting industry partners.

Wichita State is committed to break down walls and going beyond the books to provide real-world experiences for real-world results. At the same time, it expects to create an environment where risk-taking is encouraged and big ideas can become big business, so it could build new avenues for financial growth while infusing existing industries with the resources needed for future success.

Promoting Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Promoting student innovation and entrepreneurship is a foundation of Wichita State University’s curriculum and strategic plan. Wichita State holds Kansas’ only entrepreneurship major as well as an entrepreneurship minor for both business and non-business majors, a graduate certificate in entrepreneurship and innovation and an MBA with a focus on entrepreneurship. New Product & Technology Development and Growing & Managing an Entrepreneurial Firm are just a couple of the courses students can enroll in. In Spring 2016, WSU expanded its degree opportunities by offering a Master of Innovation Design degree. The Colleges of Fine Arts, Health Professions, Business, Honors, and Engineering are offering courses that incorporate entrepreneurship into the foundations of their curriculum. The College of Applied Studies now offers a course in Workplace Leadership, as well as a Bachelor's in Applied Studies which focuses on innovation in the workforce. 

Beyond academics, there are several programs encouraging entrepreneurship on campus. Every year students can compete in the Shocker New Venture Competition, where winning student groups are awarded startup capital to aid in the launch of their new venture. Other entrepreneurial competitions that happen yearly include the Koch Innovation Challenge, Shocker Innovation Corps, and Invent for the Planet. Students also attend inspirational and informational speaker series focused on entrepreneurship, innovation, and design, such as the Business Booster Series, Shocker Startup Impact, LaunchPrep, and Lunch and Learn.

The Wichita State campus is expanding to reflect the innovation and entrepreneurship demands of the economy. In spring of 2017, a new makerspace named GoCreate, located in the John Bardo Center, opened to cater to innovative Wichita State students from all majors and backgrounds. GoCreate's purpose to be a special place where people can meet, collaborate and make things happen – it is part manufacturing plant, part design studio and part garage workshop. It’s a place where creative people of all ages and skill levels have access to sophisticated equipment and training, shared work spaces and a supportive community. 

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Encouraging Faculty Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Many faculty at Wichita State University identify that the university encourages them to pursue innovation in and out of the classroom. This is becoming increasingly evident through the goals of the university's Strategic Plan. Wichita State University is working towards becoming an innovation university by transforming the world through innovation, applied learning, entrepreneurship, and economic impact.

WSU defines the following words as:

Innovation – Bringing university researchers, students and industry together to share the ideas that will drive change.

Applied Learning – Breaking down walls and going beyond the books to provide real-world experience for real-world results.

Entrepreneurship – Fostering an environment where risk-taking is encouraged and big ideas can become big business.

Economic Impact – Creating new avenues for financial growth while infusing existing industries with the resources needed for future success.

However, there is a clear sentiment that the incentive system of the university is not in line with promoting innovation through faculty. Faculty members recognize that the money on campus is in traditional research and building the innovation campus, rather than on promoting faculty support of innovation and entrepreneurship.

An exciting new development is the Brenton Myers Innovation in Engineering Education Award.  The purpose of this award is to provide funds for College of Engineering faculty to introduce new curriculum that is designed to implement innovative and entrepreneurial methods in the classroom. Although only engineering faculty will have access to these funds, effective strategies that are created by the faculty will be shared with other colleges in the university.

WSU Ventures

WSU offers a unique opportunity to students and individuals in the community through an organization called WSU Ventures. The goal of WSU Ventures is to assist entrepreneurs and upstart companies with having the resources they need in order to flourish. WSU Ventures has multiple services that it provides including research and development opportunities; research lab space; providing expert feedback on ventures; patent application assitance and guidance; as well as searching for investors. These various services offered to entrepreneurs are extremely beneficial in helping to ensure that all steps are covered throughout the product planning and implementation stages for new ventures.

Actively Supporting the University Technology Transfer Function

Many faculty and administration feel that the university’s current IP policy generally favors students and promotes innovation. However, a significant portion of the student body and faculty view the IP policy negatively. Wichita State University’s Technology Transfer has been trying to rectify this. For example, they have begun to question the intellectual property agreement and have opened the discussion to students. Some design-based classes lead students to produce academic creations that could easily be patentable. Technology Transfer has made it a point to speak at some of these classes (Senior Design for Engineering). There are even workshops that help students and faculty understand intellectual property and patent law.

Faculty at Wichita State University are passionate about ensuring that students know the copyright and intellectual property policies. In some courses, professors have a lecture dedicated specifically for these topics and offer additional help to students seeking it. The Wichita State University library also offers workshops, guides, and other tools to make this information easily accessible for students.

Facilitating University-Industry Collaboration

With the creation and building of the new Innovation Campus, WSU is partnering up with some big industry names to bring collaboration and innovation to its new campus. The goal of such partnerships will be to encourage and improve collaboration and innovation between students and professionals in the industry. The new Innovation Campus will boast multiple Partnership Buildings where companies will be able to lease space and work with WSU students and faculty. These Partnership Buildings will open up a new line of networking between students and industry to provide internship and job opportunities. At the same time, the companies will be able to provide and fund new research and experimental facilities. As a benefit to them, they will be able to recruit new talent continuously.

Some of the companies and organizations that have already partnered with WSU include Airbus, NetApp, Applied Technology Acceleration Institute, National Institute of Aviation Research (NIAR), Tech Mahindra, iTalent Corp, Youth Entrepreneurs, ABI Group, Koch Industries, Inc., Hexagon, Deloite, and Firepoint. Airbus, for example, has relocated their engineering center in downtown Wichita to the new Innovation Campus. Airbus’ presence on campus allows them to access research, testing labs, student employees, and faculty expertise quickly and easily. With NIAR already present on the campus, Airbus relocating to the new WSU campus will add to the research centers provided to students. Another example is Firepoint, an innovation company that employs students of varying disciplines to accelerate strategic projects for industry partners. Recently, Firepoint partnered with the Army to host a challenge offering a combined $35,000 in funding to design a new drone. 

Wichita State is working to facilitate university-industry collaboration at a much more aggressive pace than in the past year due to the need to bring advanced research and experimental facilities for students and faculty. The goal is to transform Wichita State into an innovation-focused university that is partnered with some of the biggest names in the industry. A recent partnership that the new Innovation Campus secured in Spring 2017 was with Boston Consulting Group with the goal of increasing collaboration and to advance the Wichita manufacturing industry.

Wichita State opened a new law enforcement training center on its innovation campus in January of 2018. The center includes training space and classrooms for the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department, Wichita Police Department, and Criminal Justice students. Students will also greatly benefit from internships, cooperative education and applied learning opportunities through the partnership. The new training center enables the Wichita Police Department to build a partnership with WSU and gives students access to top-notch training and aid in recruitment opportunities.

With the opening of the Partnership Building 2 in 2018, this building opens up avenues for businesses such as Spirit Aerosystems, and Firepoint Innovation Center, as well as for different offices to take up residence, such as GEEKS, and the College of Engineering's Dean's Office. A new Barton School of Business building is currently under talks of being built, with plans already being drawn up.

In 2019, construction began for Partnership 3 which will open more avenues for business and student collaboration. Partnership 3 should be completed in 2020 and will house Textron Aviation.

WSU Innovation Campus Master Plan Walkthrough

Engaging With Regional & Local Economic Development Efforts

Campus outreach with specific industries is very strong. Some of the industries represented more than others are aerospace, manufacturing, and education. In aerospace, the university engages in a mass amount of research for advanced materials, coatings, and general controls design. Wichita hosts the number one industry funded Aerospace research firm in the nation named NIAR (National Institute for Aviation Research). In manufacturing, the university has many researchers who specialize in advanced manufacturing and prototyping with most of these resources being used for Aerospace research. WSU also has many connections with Koch Industries, allowing business students and some engineering students, to find connections and pursue careers. In education, the department reaches out to the schools in Wichita's community to create better teachers and facilities. Unfortunately not all of the industries are represented in the university's outreach, but there is room for improvement.

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