The next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs are being formed at U.S. universities. Exactly what are these universities doing to ensure that these students and faculty will be successful in their innovation and entrepreneurship endeavors? As it turns out, they're doing a lot.
The current issue of Technology and Innovation, Journal of the National Academy of Inventors ® (19.1) (full text) zeroes in on the critical topics of innovation and entrepreneurship, with a special focus on what universities are currently doing to foster growth in those areas both for their success and the success of the communities and regions to which they are connected. Novel educational programs, innovation-driving business accelerators, and ingenious makerspaces that allow users to manufacture their own objects are among the tools being employed by universities to support the entrepreneurial activities so crucial for our economy and our nation.
"The responsibility to drive economic growth through creation and implementation of new ideas that generate 'value' for public use falls not just on corporations but also on universities," notes guest editor Rathindra DasGupta. "Consequently, in recent years, many universities have focused on developing initiatives to inspire, nurture, and guide future innovators (faculty and students), and some of the best of those are captured in this issue."
Curricula that Drive Innovation
- Angelika Domschke and John Blaho detail an innovative master's degree curriculum created at the City University of New York that is based on the industrial Stage-Gate® process, a tool which helps companies manage complex and often-difficult product development processes. Incorporating this model into the translational medicine master's degree has enabled them to equip engineers and scientists with the necessary product development skills to lower costs for groundbreaking innovations and boost adoption of new products.
- Eric Fossum et al. focus on the early positive results of Dartmouth's PhD Innovation Program at the Thayer School of Engineering. Offered as an alternative to their regular Ph.D. in engineering, this innovative program prepares students not only as engineers but also as entrepreneurs who can engage in technology transfer activities and thus make a positive economic and technological impact nationally and globally.
Extracurricular Innovation Engines
- Julia Byrd et al. compare and contrast the experiences of Columbia University -- consistently top-ranked in commercialization activities -- in managing or co-managing business accelerators in the medical, energy, and media sectors, including similarities and differences in objectives, strategies, tactics, and organizational structure. Based on these experiences and lessons, the authors identify key points of consideration and best practices methods for universities looking to enter the accelerator arena.
- Shane Farritor of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, emphasizes the importance of providing makerspaces for students in order to promote innovation outside of the classroom setting and offers a blueprint that will give faculty and administrators a starting place for considering the key characteristics their makerspaces should have to promote innovation output.
Innovation Tools and Strategies
- C. Scott Dempwolf and Ben Shneiderman of the University of Maryland discuss EventFlow, software that enables analysts to rapidly scan visual displays, algorithmically search for patterns, and study an aggregated view that shows common and rare patterns. EventFlow lets analysts test hypotheses about innovation and improve future results based on analysis of past innovation patterns. The examples offered use data from the development of 34,331 drugs or medical devices.
- Vinit Nijhawan of Boston University discusses the benefits that universities can achieve in the tech transfer arena by applying platform strategies such as those used by innovation powerhouses like Uber and Airbnb. By employing platform strategies, which focus on connecting people, organizations, and resources in an interactive ecosystem, universities can achieve great results, including significantly accelerated research and IP commercialization.
Importance of Innovation
- James Smith of West Virginia University takes a wide view of innovation history and arguing for the centrality of innovation to our society's economic and social success. Starting from the origins of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, he traces the progression of innovation and the concomitant development of the U.S. as a global powerhouse, highlighting the interdependent relationship between the two.
- Philippa Olsen and Edward Elliott of the United States Patent and Trademark Office focus on the USPTO's Patents for Humanity awards, the USPTO's top honor for innovators who bring life-changing technologies to those in need.
- In the NAI Fellow Profile, professor, inventor, and serial entrepreneur Joseph M. DeSimone discusses how his company Carbon is revolutionizing the Maker Movement, why we shouldn't be pessimistic about the impact that 3D printing and other manufacturing technologies will have on jobs, and what makes innovative teams successful.