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Update on the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

September 25, 2018

To the UW community:

You will recall that in March, the University Of Wyoming Board of Trustees authorized the establishment of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE). The mission of the IIE, a university-wide effort, is to foster innovation and entrepreneurship among UW students, faculty and staff, and across the state to diversify the economy and drive economic growth.

I wanted to update you on the progress to launch the institute, in accordance with the university’s strategic plan, “Breaking Through: 2017-2022.”

Last academic year, a cluster hire in entrepreneurship was a major component of the VSIP process. Four FTE were opened to support entrepreneurship. First, a new chief operating officer of the IIE has been hired: Dr. Jack Mason. Dr. Mason, who begins his work at UW in early October, also will provide interim leadership for the Business Creation Factory, an important element of the institute.

Dr. Patrick Kreiser, the recently hired Rile Chair of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business’s Department of Management and Marketing, will be a co-academic leader of the IIE, along with an interim co-academic leader from the College of Engineering and Applied Science, who will serve until an endowed chair in engineering entrepreneurship comes online. Dr. Matthew Fox is a new entrepreneurship assistant professor in the Department of Management and Marketing. In addition, an entrepreneur-in-residence in the College of Engineering and Applied Science was approved. These newly hired leaders for the innovation and entrepreneurship initiative at UW are testimony to our level of commitment and urgency.

These new hires met recently with our college deans, the governing board for the IIE, along with Dr. Ed Synakowski, the vice president for research and economic development and chair of the governing board. In addition to the deans, other key stakeholders participated, including Henry Nowak, the new director for Technology Transfer and Research Products in Ed’s office. Henry begins his work at UW Oct. 15. The UW Foundation and the Wyoming Technology Business Center (WTBC) also participated in the day. I had the opportunity to share my thoughts on the importance of their work for the university and our state with the group members as they began their day. Among the topics of discussion:

  • The importance of generating a culture of entrepreneurship at UW.
  • The Business Creation Factory, which will provide a phased process for evaluating ideas and guiding them through early-stage development, and its relationship to the WTBC.
  • Review of the existing and new maker spaces throughout the university.
  • Other proposed and current entrepreneurship activities, including --
    • WTBC.
    • Technology Transfer and Research Products Office changes.
    • Proposed Center for Business and Economic Analysis.
    • Proposed Entrepreneurship and Intellectual Property Law Practicum.
    • Proposed Health and Bioscience Innovation Hub.
    • Entrepreneurial activities and opportunities with the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
    • Fisher Innovation Challenge and Ellbogen Entrepreneurship Competition.

The attendees also discussed the importance of entrepreneurial mindsets, strategies, skills and knowledge necessary for everyone to succeed in the 21st century, given the rapid change, uncertainty, risks and opportunities we all face. It is not just about starting new businesses to bring innovations to market.

Four immediate action steps, with deliverable dates by the end of the fall semester, will involve the:

  1. formation of a task force led by new College of Business Dean Dave Sprott  to refresh the current entrepreneurship major, a concentration in the management degree; revise the minor in entrepreneurship to make it accessible across campus; consider a certificate and begin outlining approaches to infuse entrepreneurship principles across the curriculum.
  2. formation of a task force to undertake the alignment of services supporting the launch of startup businesses as conceptualized in the Business Creation Factory and those provided by the WTBC, particularly for the Fisher Innovation Challenge.
  3. coordination and alignment of the Fisher Innovation Challenge and Ellbogen Entrepreneurship Competition.
  4. enhancement of the Office of Technology Transfer and Research Products, reporting to the vice president for research and economic development.

The two task forces will be provided grants to support their work in FY19. Planning grants will be provided the Center for Design Thinking and the Entrepreneurship and Intellectual Property Law Practicum. The Center for Business and Economic Analysis and the Health and Bioscience Hub, which received planning grants last year, will be awarded small development grants in FY19. These grants are through the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development.

In addition, during this academic year, a strategic plan for the IIE will be drafted, using a broad stakeholder engagement process, with the goal of completing and publishing the plan by June 1, 2019.

This is an exciting opportunity for the university and Wyoming. A special thank you to the IIE board and the faculty and administrators providing leadership to carry out this innovation and entrepreneurship initiative.

Please provide your thoughts and suggestions as we progress with implementation. Broad involvement, understanding and buy-in will be critical to the success of the IIE.

Thank you.

Laurie Nichols, President


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