Regional Innovation and Universities

Universities are often at the heart of innovation corridors. From academic medical centers spawning biotech startups in Boston to Carnegie Mellon’s robotics program catalyzing Pittsburgh’s innovation district, universities play important roles in the innovation economy.

Ecosystem builders can help universities engage in local innovation by aligning academic expertise and strategic priorities with the region’s long-term goals, connecting disconnected nodes within the ecosystem, and, when favorable, developing public-private partnerships.

My ecosystem building work has supported a number of notable university entrepreneurship programs and public-private partnerships. These include Miami University’s John W. Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship; the University of Colorado Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science; the Louisville Entrepreneurship Acceleration Partnership, a public-private partnership uniting government, universities, private companies, and entrepreneurs; and C3 (Commonwealth Commercialization Center), a public-private partnership focused on state-wide university commercialization strategy, connecting university technology transfer offices and leveraging access to legal, talent, and investment.

Spotlight on Miami University’s John W. Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship

Miami’s differentiated approach to undergraduate entrepreneurship education is an excellent case in point that proves connecting university programs to other nodes of the ecosystem yields impressive results. From students pursuing initial funding from angel investors to professionals offering guest lectures, Miami’s institute intentionally connects students with other nodes of the ecosystem. 

For example, students and faculty benefit from relationships with key regional organizations like Cintrifuse, Flywheel Sociaql Enterprise Hub, and CincyTech. Student-led startups receive mentoring, coaching and advice from more than 450 angel investors and venture capitalists, accelerator directors, startup founders, social entrepreneurs and others from organizations like Techstars, 500 Startups, and Silicon Valley Bank. This strong connectivity has catalyzed entrepreneurship regionally.

Strong Engagement and Growth

As a result of Miami’s innovative, award-winning programming, many students have received insights from seasoned entrepreneurs, BigCo leadership, and investors to develop their own ideas and turn them into trail-blazing companies. Collectively, Miami student-led companies have raised more than $12 million in venture funding over the past four years. 

As part of the RedHawk Launch Accelerator and Technology Commercialization and Startup Launch courses, 149 student-founders have launched 36 startups and high-growth companies. Three of the student-led startups raised initial funding and/or landed spots in startup accelerators (Cydekick, Akinda Co., and KCD Cosmetics).

What’s more, the program has attracted 128 angel investors, VCs, accelerator directors, and ecosystem builders from 12 states across the U.S. to participate in RedHawk Venture Pitch Competitions held at the end of the Fall and Spring semesters.

Investing in university programming is just one way to forge pathways between university assets and other nodes in an ecosystem. Such a commitment creates an environment for local communities to begin distinguishing themselves as innovation corridors, creating additional revenue and job opportunities, and developing a rallying cry around which innovators can unite.