Innovation and Entrepreneurship – What is an Entrepreneur-in Residence?

A few years ago, when Dr. Norma Kenyon asked me to become the U’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR), I spent a few months researching how other schools deployed their EIRs. The vast majority had experienced businessmen and women available on campus to work with students as teachers and mentors.  A few, notably the University of Washington in Seattle, used them exclusively to help faculty through the process of commercializing intellectual property or IP.

With limited resources and a backlog of needs, the U’s EIR program initially focused on commercialization of faculty IP. I helped the Office of Technology Transfer, which licenses the U’s IP, sort through the best way to move ideas from the laboratory to commercial usage, often identifying experienced managers to join a newly formed company.

Then Dean Bardet asked if I could expand my role within the College of Engineering, not only working with faculty but also students. I went back to my notes about the student-oriented EIR programs at other schools. Those EIRs acted as both teachers of entrepreneurship and advisors, working with student teams on projects.

It sounded good as far as it went, but, for me, something was missing. What about creativity?

So I have set out a three-headed approach to what I will do.

  1. Many of the U’s engineering students will find themselves, during their career, working for an entrepreneur. My job will be to help them understand how this strange beast works and how to be successful in an entrepreneurial environment.
  2. Some of the U’s engineering students will become entrepreneurs themselves, starting one or more new enterprises. My job will be to help them understand the demands and pitfalls, and the good parts, about being an entrepreneur.
  3. For all of the U’s engineering students I’ll be running strange contests that will demand a creative approach to problem solving. In a world of extremely rapid change, the only constant is the need to innovate.
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