In this second in a three-part series, APLU spotlights finalists Kansas State University and Penn State University in the “Innovation” IEP Awards category, for exemplary initiatives in education and workforce development.
Kansas State University has worked through its Knowledge Based Economic Development (KBED) partnership to partner with civic and private sector organizations to attract knowledge-based companies to the region, creating hundreds of jobs since it was founded in 2008. The KBED is one of the first truly integrated university-community economic development initiatives to focus on the attraction, and creation, of knowledge-based businesses.
The Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship provides mentorship, support, and funding to entrepreneurs. K-State has more than 100 students majoring in entrepreneurship, 52 students minoring in entrepreneurship, and over 500 students enrolled in entrepreneurship courses. The center recently opened a student incubator space at the university’s College of Business. In the last academic year, the center awarded over $256,000 in grants to entrepreneurs.
Finally, the K-State Institute for Commercialization facilitates technology transfer, strategic partnerships with industry, as well as research and development collaborations. The institute facilitates an average of 350 unique faculty interactions each year. Over the past five years, those interactions have led to nearly $15 million in corporate-generated cash royalties, funded research, and company equity.
Pennsylvania State University centralized all economic development projects under its Invent Penn State Initiative in 2015. The initiative blends entrepreneurship-focused academic programs, startup training and incubation, funding for commercialization, and university-community partnerships to drive broad-based prosperity in the region.
As part of the Invent Penn State drive, the university launched the Fund for Innovation to de-risk and accelerate the challenging commercialization process for research discoveries. The university also hired an entrepreneur-in-residence to evaluate technologies and work with key campus stakeholders to improve the process.
The university also provided $50,000 seed grants to 17 of its Pennsylvania campuses to develop community partnerships and create physical spaces that accelerate startup companies, provide entrepreneurial resources, provide maker spaces and generally serve as “hubs” for innovation in their communities. Innovation hub resources are free and available to both community members and Penn State students.
In 2014, the university launched the Office of Industrial Partnerships to deepen its engagement with industry. The office is tasked with fostering strategic relationships with industry partners across the university, supporting faculty by connecting them to companies that can utilize their expertise, and supporting efforts of embedded industry coordinators in institutes and colleges. For the 2015 to 2016 school year, the Invent Penn State Initiative led to 91 patents, 18 startups formations, 50 technologies funded for commercialization, and a 20 percent increase in industry partnerships.