Perspective on technology innovation and entrepreneurism
National Summit - June 16, 2009
Research universities can be major hubs for entrepreneurial activity and technology innovation, but this environment is not inherent.
Our economic survival as a region and nation is dependent upon a willingness to embrace untested ideas and inventions, encourage risk-taking, and acknowledge failure as simply part of the creative process. Research universities, particularly those in the Midwest, have the opportunity to deliver a profound impact upon tomorrow’s knowledge-driven industries: advanced manufacturing, alternative energy, health care delivery, and drug development.
Scholarship and generating new knowledge will always be the foundation of research universities. That must include teaching and nurturing entrepreneurs, be they faculty, staff or students. We do this through coursework, incubator space, student-driven organizations, technology transfer initiatives, and supportive leadership.
Equally important, our job is to convince those holdouts within the academy that “entrepreneurism” is not a dirty word.
When an English professor writes a novel or a collection of poetry, and that work is rewarded with a Pulitzer Prize or the National Book Critics Circle Award, we in higher education celebrate the achievement. When a bioengineering professor develops a medical device with the potential to improve lives, or a scientist licenses a software innovation to industry, we should be just as effusive with our institutional praise and rewards. It should not be viewed as sacrilege, as it sometimes is from wary corners of campus, for entrepreneurial faculty and students to commercialize their work.
Research universities have long been engines of technology and innovation in America. We have shaped the Internet, created the artificial heart and the integrated circuit chip, and developed vaccines to prevent polio and cervical cancer. Now more than ever, we must embolden the academy to provide a thriving culture for entrepreneurs in our community who are determined to make a difference with their innovation and invention.