UT leaders tout centrality of entrepreneurial programs to modernize education efforts

September 16, 2011 | News
By Jon Strunk

University of Toledo leaders today reiterated the value of its entrepreneurial programs as key components of students’ education and faculty research in addition to the broad array of economic development and job creation benefits offered to the community.

In April, in collaboration with the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), UT President Lloyd Jacobs joined with research university leaders across the nation as a co-signer of a letter sent to then-Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke to highlight the efforts of economically engaged universities.

“For the last six years, we have aggressively pushed to provide researchers at The University of Toledo with the tools and expertise they need to commercialize their laboratory discoveries and inventions,” Jacobs said. “This effort has created a sharp rise in educational opportunities, in patents and technology licensing and in UT spin-off companies.

“Through partnerships with government, business and community organizations, we are creating jobs and enhancing the quality of life in northwest Ohio,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs also highlighted an academic restructuring initiated last year to provide students with increased out-of-classroom learning opportunities and to break down artificial barriers between fields of study at the University.

Examples of these new initiatives include:

Rocket Ventures LLC — Rocket Ventures is a strategic partnership between The University of Toledo and the Regional Growth Partnership, a private economic development organization serving northwest Ohio. The partnership helps companies commercialize their technology, supports new technology-based firms, and provides seed funding to attract external investment in companies served by the 18-county northwest Ohio footprint. The joint venture allows both organizations to reduce operating costs and push more resources to the interface between Rocket Ventures and area companies.

UT Innovation Enterprises (UT-IE) — To better facilitate the interactions between the University and industry, UT established Innovation Enterprises to serve as the institution’s economic development arm. This nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization enhances access to research expertise, intellectual property and commercial opportunities for UT researchers and private industry. To facilitate university-industry collaboration, UT-IE support programs facilitate the sharing of laboratory facilities and student and faculty expertise; strengthen strategic investments in university-industry collaborations aimed at advancing technologies of mutual interest; develop ways to incentivize and support industry research and development in collaboration with UT; and encourage the development of accelerators and public-private partnerships on or within close proximity to campuses.

Innovation Enterprises (IE) Investment Fund — Established to invest in technologies discovered at UT and the surrounding area and help bring them to the marketplace, IE Investment Fund has launched a $10 million fund to assist with the translation of these technologies into innovative commercial products and services.

Innovation Enterprises (IE) Challenge — For two years, UT’s College of Business and Innovation, working with IE, has held an annual competition designed to foster and reward entrepreneurship among UT students, faculty, staff and alumni. More than $12,000 in cash and services is awarded each year to qualified entries, and each year several teams launch companies to take product concepts to market. Winners of the IE Challenge advance to compete in local and national competitions.

UT Technology Transfer Lab-to-Launch — Working with Rocket Ventures LLC, the Lab-to-Launch program provides comprehensive assistance to faculty members, researchers and graduate students who want to form startup companies to commercialize the technology innovations they have developed. As a one-stop center for technology commercialization, Lab-to-Launch provides a clear pathway from the laboratory to the commercial market. Companies are assisted with business plan development, networking with experienced entrepreneurs, locating sources of early-stage financing and preparing the new companies for the business world. The program has averaged three new spin outs each year.

“Every day UT is working to find new entities to partner with to provide research and educational opportunities for our students and employees,” Jacobs said. “To succeed in the global economy, when students leave UT with a degree, that degree must be symbolic of a broad array of skills beyond just the topical knowledge in which they majored.

“Students must have developed leadership and communication skills, an understanding of business, and an ability to excel as part of a team. It is through these sorts of programs and partnerships that higher education in the 21st century will flourish, and The University of Toledo is proud to be on the leading edge.”

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