Partnering Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Partnering Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Budding Carnegie Mellon University entrepreneurs have long turned to campus organizations such as Project Olympus, an initiative of the School of Computer Science, and the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship (DJC), in the Tepper School of Business, for support in commercializing their innovations.

Now their recent partnership — establishing the new cross-campus Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) — offers the uniquely-CMU advantages borne of uniting cutting-edge technological expertise with world-class business education.

"We are thrilled that this partnership of our preeminent technological and business capabilities, as embodied by the new CIE, will further enable the remarkable synergies we see when our faculty and students reach across campus to collaborate — and continue to propel our university, and region, into the entrepreneurial forefront," said Mark S. Kamlet, CMU provost and executive vice president and head of the CIE's governing board.

The new center, made possible by a grant from the McCune Foundation's Big Ideas program, is jointly led by Lenore Blum, Project Olympus founding director and distinguished career professor of computer science and David Mawhinney, executive director of the Don Jones Center for Entrepreneurship and assistant teaching professor of entrepreneurship.

"Olympus has from the start worked closely with the Don Jones Center," explained Blum. "As collaborators and key entities of the Carnegie Mellon innovation eco-system, a partnership between Olympus and the DJC — between technology and business, if you will — made perfect sense."

And the center plans an even broader focus.

"As an elite research university, Carnegie Mellon is unique in enjoying world class status in a number of disciplines — engineering, computer science, design, business and more," said Mawhinney. "We're looking for representation from each of the schools because this is truly a cross-campus effort. We're bringing together all those elements to create innovation and to bring that innovation to society through entrepreneurship."

That movement is further accelerated through the efforts of CMU's Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation, instrumental in supporting commercialization of CMU technologies.

It's an eco-system that works. Consider that CMU ranks first among all U.S. universities without a medical school in the number of startup companies created per research dollar spent since 2007. Moreover, CMU professors and students produce an average of 15–20 new companies each year — and more than 300 companies and 9,000 jobs in the past 15 years.

The CIE identifies three overarching goals:

  1. Defining CMU as the 'university of choice' for both student and faculty entrepreneurs,
  2. Fostering an "inside-out" approach — moving cutting-edge research 'outside' into successful business ventures, and
  3. Developing an extensive alumni entrepreneurial network.

Through the DJC, Tepper was one of the first business schools to offer formal entrepreneurship training.

Olympus, since its 2007 founding in the School of Computer Science, has supported more than 100 student and faculty teams at the earliest stages of the value creation chain. Said Blum, "When I talk to venture capitalists, I often say, 'Whatever you've thought of as early stage ventures, we're earlier than that'" — leading to more than 70 companies, two-thirds student-led, and $60 million in follow-on funding.

The CIE will continue the successful activities of both Olympus and the DJC, including Show & Tell showcases, the Spark grant fund for students, the Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund for alumni ventures, incubator space for fledgling companies, and hosting workshops and business competitions.

New programs will include Launch CMU events in both Pittsburgh and Silicon Valley that bring top-tier venture capitalists together with university entrepreneurs, as well as undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships.

"We also will be establishing an Alumni Entrepreneurial Network, tapping our many alumni who have started or who are leading successful startups," noted Mawhinney. "Our alumni can provide priceless guidance to the next generation of entrepreneurs and we will be nurturing those connections in every way we can."

"We want Carnegie Mellon to be the destination of choice for students and faculty who are interested in entrepreneurship," stressed Blum. "The knowledge and skills necessary to start a business rarely come naturally, regardless of how gifted a person might be in their chosen discipline. The CIE provides the missing pieces, benefiting not only our faculty and students, but the entire region."

Related Links: Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship | School of Computer Science | Project Olympus | Tepper School of Business | Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship | Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation

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