Facebook Offers Outlet to University Researchers

According to recent reports, Facebook is making funding available to the most creative researchers at the most elite universities, basically offering a potential of breaking the bureaucratic log jam the is involved in much of the research funding universe. Ideally this type of initiative will look beyond the usual suspects (Harvard, MIT, Stanford, etc) as the company itself had to look well beyond elite university students to grow.

From USAToday,

Facebook’s secretive lab Building 8 has signed a collaboration deal with 17 universities to speed up the research cycle for hardware and software.

Building 8, headed by former Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency chief and Google executive Regina Dugan, has entered into a “Sponsored Academic Research Agreement.”  That means Facebook can get new research projects launched in weeks, bypassing the nine to 12 months it usually takes, Dugan said in a Facebook post

This is just another example of the most innovative firms (often with roots on the campus) are going back to the campus to find creators, innovators and entrepreneurs.

 

GE, Carnegie Mellon Announce Robotics Fund

News from last week highlights that more big innovators (and funders) know the value of the campus.  GE has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University and announced a $20 million robotics venture accelerator fund for campus. robotFrom the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

A new accelerator program and a $20 million venture fund started by Carnegie Mellon University and GE Ventures could brand Pittsburgh as the official home of the globe’s growing robotics industry.

CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center and GE Ventures, the investment arm of Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric, have teamed up to create The Robotics Hub, an independent, early-stage startup accelerator program designed to draw the nation’s best advanced robotics firms to Pittsburgh and to keep those started here firmly in place.

The for-profit Robotics Hub will provide funding through newly created Coal Hill Ventures and access to equipment at CMU and the NREC to chosen companies by 2016, in addition to putting their creations on a fast track toward commercialization.

Report Says UK Struggles with Research Commercialisation | Times Higher Education | #highered

The Times Higher Education site has an interesting piece highlighting the difficulties British universities are having commercializing all of the research funding they receive from their government. A new report on the subject has supported this criticism. From Elizabeth Gibney:

“British entrepreneurs are being badly let down by a lack of access to financial support and a system that often forces them to sell out to private equity investors or larger foreign companies to get ideas off the ground,” said committee chair and Labour MP, Andrew Miller.

MPs said they had been encouraged by the work of the Technology Strategy Board and its network of “catapult” centres, but said that they were concerned about the access of small firms to facilities, and that government grant funding was often highly bureaucratic to apply for and only enough to “get an idea off the ground”.

The report, Bridging the Valley of Death: Improving the Commercialisation of Research, adds that while academic research is the “jewel in the crown of UK innovation activity”, the committee had concerns about how universities interact with the commercialisation of research.

It questions whether changes to the Higher Education Innovation Fund, which reward institutions that have already benefited from successfully commercialising their intellectual property, might further decrease the success of already struggling institutions.

“We would like to see how well changes to the Higher Education Innovation Fund improve commercialisation activity; whether there is a need for greater amounts of proof of concept funding in the sector; and challenge the institutions to become more accommodating to non-traditional backgrounds among their academic staff,” it reads.

“We have concerns that driving an innovation agenda too aggressively through universities may have diminishing returns with regard to commercialisation and risk damaging the academic research that is working well,” it adds.

via MPs criticise government over research commercialisation | News | Times Higher Education.

New Master of Entrepreneurship Program | University of Michigan

The University of Michigan, a leader across many disciplines (and my alma mater) has announced the creation of a Master of Entrepreneurship. Its great to see it is a joint venture between business and engineering. I was fortunate to interview Michigan Alum and supporter Sam Zell a few months back and it was evident in our short talk that Michigan, its leaders, and supporters were fully aware of the interdisciplinary nature of entrepreneurship. This is a great development for Michigan and the practice, research, and teaching of entrepreneurship in higher education. From the Michigan Master of Entrepreneurship website:

The Michigan Master of Entrepreneurship (MsE) gives students the ability to create new technology-focused ventures, either as standalone entities or within established innovative organizations.

This instruction is not available through conventional business or engineering curricula. Most business schools focus on the skill set required in larger, more mature organizations. Most engineering programs do not include market assessment and commercialization skills. The MsE program brings these two cultures together in a novel synthesis that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The first students will begin in August 2012 and the application is available online. Go Blue! (I can write that, this is a blog!)

via Master of Entrepreneurship | University of Michigan.

D.C.’s Newest Accelerator “The Fort” Debuts Inaugural Class | TechCrunch

More accelerator news in the DC Metro. From Techcrunch

Hot, new Washington D.C. tech accelerator known as The Fort is debuting its inaugural class of startups today. The organization grew out the efforts from early stage VC firm Fortify Ventures LLC, also known as Fortify.vc (that’s its URL, too), which had previously invested in nearly dozen D.C.-area tech companies.

Over the past 9 months, The Fort’s co-founders, Jonathon Perrelli and Carla Valdes, have been busy trying to spark innovation in the nation’s capital. They set up the fund, invested in group of startups, created the accelerator, hosted a pitch competition called “Distilled Intelligence” which handed out $25K to winners, and selected a dozen more startups for The Fort’s first program.

“D.C. is not a place where people are always working together,” says Perrelli of the group’s efforts, “but now there is this uprising. People are trying to build something here.”

He notes that the area, despite being the center of government where important policy decisions are made, has been slow to join in the burgeoning tech scene. But things have been changing. With The Fort, the hope is to provide a path to get D.C. area startups off the ground.

The program, which gives founders anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 in seed capital, was lured to the area from nearby Arlington thanks to a $100,000 grant from D.C. Mayor Vicent Gray. Now set up in offices on K Street two blocks from The White House, the organization its opening its doors to 12 new companies who will spend 6 months in its program.

Its interesting to note that accelerator founders are now playing the  economic development game. And, once again we see more pressure on universities in the entrepreneurship education space. BTW, I met some of the founders in the The Fort’s first class at GWU’s Startup Job Fair earlier this week.  Some cool new ventures.

via D.C.’s Newest Tech Accelerator “The Fort” Debuts Inaugural Batch | TechCrunch.

U of Cincinnati Looks To Engineers and Entrepreneurship for Opportunity Creation and Economic Growth

Just read an interesting piece about University of Cincinnati’s efforts  to offer more entrepreneurial opportunities to students and faculty in its engineering programs. (h/t tto2newco).

Apparently Dean Carlo Montemagno of the College of Engineering and Applies sciences is an educational innovator at UC. From the Enterchange:

He soon will launch an Entrepreneurial Innovation Center, too. In recent interviews, Montemagno revealed to the Enquirer the first details of a university initiative to create high-tech, high-paying jobs and drive economic development in this region.

Likely to open at the Edgecliff campus in Walnut Hills, the innovation center will give his college’s 140 professors and 4,300 students access to workshops, mentors, lab space and an engineering accelerator program to help build and launch businesses.

A new entrepreneurial sabbatical allows professors a year away from teaching in order to start their companies.

Eventually, all three efforts will be open to faculty and students in other UC colleges.

“The idea is to remove the wall between discovery at universities and implementation in the economy,” Montemagno says. “It ensures the relevancy of the research to fit the needs of the economy.”

From a recent university press release on the entrepreneurial initiatives:

University of Cincinnati officials today signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) designed to increase the level of technology commercialization in Southwest Ohio.
Signing the MOU between UC and the Hamilton County Development Corporation were Santa Jeremy Ono, UC provost and senior vice president; Carlo Montemagno, dean of UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science; and  David Main, president of the Hamilton County Development Co., Inc. (HCDC) and Hamilton County Business Center, Inc.

The non-binding MOU intends to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within the university’s College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) by promoting the creation of technical businesses based on the research achievements of faculty, students and staff. This enterprise is expected to encourage the creation, development and growth of innovative ventures by leveraging the combined strength of UC’s technology expertise and HCBC’s entrepreneurial assistance services.

I have been looking and I see no mention of the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati in any of the materials discussing these recent initiatives.

 

2012 Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index | 2012 Launch Event

I am fortunate that Dr. Zoltan J. Acs is my dissertation chair as he is a world leading scholar and a great mentor. One of his major projects, The Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index is just about to release its 2012 results. Which country is the most entrepreneurial country in the world? We will find out this week.

GEDI is a major breakthrough for investors, policy makers, entrepreneurs, and development professionals interested in high impact entrepreneurs and sustainable economic growth (Read what the Economist said about GEDI). You can read more about GEDI and its fascinating techniques.

There are two kickoff events this year. One at the Heritage Foundation on 5 January 2011 and another, more casual event and discussion at George Mason University’s Founders Hall in Arlington VA on 6th January 2012. Register for the GMU event (Jan 6th 5 pm – 7 pm) or for Heritage (Jan 5th 9 am – 12 pm).