The University of Kansas has a great story to tell about innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as the positive outcomes of the university’s efforts in technology commercialization, industry collaborations and job creation.
To continue telling this story, KU and dozens of universities nationwide are this morning providing summaries of their innovation and economic development efforts to media. The coordinated release of these summaries coincides with a White House event, scheduled for today, to discuss university-based activities related to entrepreneurship, technology commercialization and economic development.
Below is a summary of KU’s most recent and high-profile efforts and activities related to entrepreneurship, technology commercialization and economic development.
Changing the Organizational Infrastructure
Earlier this year, KU created a new position: Associate Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Julie Goonewardene came to us from Purdue University and has experience as an entrepreneur, company CEO, and investment catalyst. She oversees the KU Center for Technology Commercialization, which was formed in 2008 as a single interface with industry for the Lawrence and Medical Center campuses.
This summer, KU created the new position of Director of Industrial Partnerships. Julie Nagel also came to us from Purdue and has corporate, academic, and scientific experience. These appointments and other structural changes signal an increasing commitment at all levels of the university to enhanced engagement with KU’s economic development mission.
Developing Public-Private Partnerships
The Bioscience & Technology Business Center at the University of Kansas opened its doors in 2010 at two locations in Lawrence, one of them on the KU campus. These incubator facilities were made possible by a unique partnership of state government, county government, city government, the local chamber of commerce, the KU Endowment Association, and KU itself. On Sept. 27, we will dedicate a third BTBC facility at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City. Six companies are now doing business in Lawrence and three in Kansas City.
Another example: KU has leased available campus space to companies that needed temporary lab and office space. We are able to do this because we worked with the local community in 2008 to enact permissive state legislation. As a result, one of the companies elected to stay in Lawrence, and the other has now moved into the on-campus BTBC.
Promoting Entrepreneurship Education
The KU Entrepreneurship Works for Kansas initiative is a collaborative program that empowers innovative students through education, research, and outreach. The center is funded by a grant from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, with matching funds from alumni. KU is one of only 40 universities nationwide to receive this type of grant.
The initiative includes the KU Center for Entrepreneurship in the School of Business, which supports an Entrepreneurship Certificate Program that’s available to students in all disciplines, both undergraduate and graduate. Courses include Introduction to Entrepreneurship as well as a 12-credit sequence on starting, financing, marketing, and launching your own business. Related programs include a consulting service for small-business owners provided by teams of M.B.A. students and the RedTire Succession Plan, which helps small-town Kansas owners of pharmacies, health practices, and family-owned farms transition into retirement by facilitating the sale of the businesses to university graduates who have the expertise and ambition to carry on in rural communities.
Putting it Together: Ionz Blue Water Solutions, Inc. – A Case Study
Water use, and re-use, is a major economic issue in Kansas, one that directly affects agriculture as well as everyone else who relies on clean, reliable sources of this precious asset.
KU is currently working to attract a company to Kansas whose innovative technology has applications for the conservation, treatment, and quality control of water. The company is currently located in Florida, and its investors are based in Boston, but a team of KU M.B.A. students in the KU Center for Entrepreneurship has worked with them to develop a business plan. In addition, KU commercialization staff and staff at the Bioscience & Technology Business Center have made a solid case for the company to relocate to Lawrence. This project is a case study of the university working with a public-private partner and its own students to develop a promising new company in Kansas. Another outcome: Ionz Blue Water Solutions has already added a KU student to its staff.
KU Strategic Planning: Institutional Commitment
During the past year, KU worked to develop new strategic plans for the Lawrence and Medical Center campuses. At Lawrence, the Driving Discovery and Innovation Work Group focused considerable attention on providing incentives for entrepreneurial faculty who are interested in turning research projects into inventions with social benefits and commercial opportunities. The Engaging Scholarship for Public Impact Work Group brought forward a series of recommendations for promoting active entrepreneurship, including “Identify and remove barriers to entrepreneurship and Commercialization.”
One outgrowth of the planning process was the solicitation of more than 100 faculty proposals for strategic initiatives that address grand challenges in various fields. These proposals drove the development of four strategic themes that represent our highest priorities for research investment during the coming five years.
What all of this activity underscores is the commitment of the entire university – from the Chancellor on down – to greater engagement with KU’s economic development mission in the state, nation, and world.