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Entrepreneurship Summit Unites Educators, Business Leaders

Innovators Share Strategies to Ignite Spirit of Ingenuity on College Campuses

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Contacts:  Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or and Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or
LOWELL, Mass. – More than 300 entrepreneurs, higher education and business leaders came together at UMass Lowell this week to map new ways to teach and invest in the next generation of thinkers, doers and creators. 

College and university administrators, faculty researchers, students and industry partners shared best practices already being implemented on campuses and ideas on how to expand entrepreneurial thinking and performance into all aspects of university life to help drive economic development. A three-day event, the Deshpande Symposium for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education was held at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center.

Universities that excel in these endeavors were honored for their achievements at an awards ceremony during the symposium.

Across 30 sessions over three days, participants discussed embracing entrepreneurship as part of an educational curriculum, the development of maker spaces for the campus community, university-based technology commercialization and business incubators, and how to seek out and connect with mentors. Representatives from more than 45 colleges and universities from throughout North America led programs, along with leaders of business accelerators and foundations that support entrepreneurship.

“Colleges and universities from around the world attended the symposium with a common goal: accelerating innovation and entrepreneurship across their institutions,” said Jacqueline Moloney, UMass Lowell executive vice chancellor. “UMass Lowell is a pioneer in entrepreneurship education, providing the framework and resources for our students to pursue their ideas for new enterprises and other innovations that solve problems and enhance the quality of life. It is essential to provide this type of education not just to business majors, but to all students so they can use these skills for success in the global marketplace and ever-changing world.”  

Moloney, who spoke at the conference, is a national leader in innovation in higher education and one of the event’s organizers. UMass Lowell and the Deshpande Foundation are the founding sponsors of the symposium, now in its fourth year. The event’s aim is to foster research and education that can have a positive impact on the world, according to Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, an entrepreneur who has founded and grown several companies, and who currently serves as the chairman of the Sparta Group LLC and as trustee of the foundation.

“This conference is all about people coming together and sharing ways to do research to increase the impact and educate students to be entrepreneurial,” Deshpande said. “We have an opportunity to reinvent the role of universities to play a central role in the economy.”

Keynote speakers included co-founder Jeff Hoffman, who discussed the challenges entrepreneurs need to overcome to be successful, and Subra Suresh, president of Carnegie Mellon University, who talked about higher education institutions’ leadership role in fostering economic growth.

Individuals and universities that are champions of entrepreneurship were honored for their contributions in five categories:

  • Excellence in Curriculum Innovation in Entrepreneurship – Syracuse University, for its Raymond von Dran Innovation and Disruptive Entrepreneurship Accelerator (RvD IDEA). Since its inception in 2007, the accelerator has grown to support more than 100 student ventures a year.  
  • Excellence in Student Engagement in Entrepreneurship – Northeastern University, for its Center for Entrepreneurship Education. The center provides entrepreneurship courses and operates IDEA, a venture accelerator, and cultivates a network of mentors and investors. 
  • Exemplary Practice in Technology Commercialization – Rice University, for its Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. Established in 2000, more than 1,500 technology startups have benefited from participating in the alliance’s programs and raised more than $3 billion in funding. 
  • Outstanding Contributions to Advancing Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education – Judith Cone, special assistant to the chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Cone is the architect of “Innovation Roadmap,” the university’s strategic plan for increasing its impact through innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • Outstanding Achievement as an Entrepreneurial University – University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Students may pursue degrees and minors in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurial approaches to problem-solving are embedded in other university programs, including a campus-wide enterprise creation initiative and an annual business plan competition.

"These honorees understand that students, researchers and business partners at campuses around the world are transforming regional and global economies by harnessing their strengths to make bold contributions to the marketplace,” said Steven Tello, UMass Lowell’s associate vice chancellor for entrepreneurship and economic development, one of the symposium’s organizers. “The 2015 award winners we salute are at the vanguard of this effort.”

The symposium is just one facet of UMass Lowell’s commitment to entrepreneurship education, as new and expanding initiatives across the university are evidence of this work. These include degree offerings in entrepreneurship in UMass Lowell’s Manning School of Business; the DifferenceMaker Program, which annually engages more than 6,000 students in problem-solving for business and community issues; and the new Maker Space for hands-on prototyping and experimentation on the university’s North Campus.

Complementing these programs are the new UMass Lowell Innovation Hub, which offers lab space for budding entrepreneurs in the city’s Hamilton Canal District, and the expansion of the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2) business incubator, a joint effort of the University of Massachusetts’ Lowell and Worcester campuses.

UMass Lowell also partnered with the Deshpande Foundation to found the community program Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll), which launched in 2010 as the Merrimack Valley Sandbox, to foster business and nonprofit enterprises in Lowell and Lawrence. Today, the initiative has grown to support entrepreneurs in mid-size cities throughout Massachusetts.

Taken together, these efforts earned UMass Lowell designation as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities.

In addition to UMass Lowell and the Deshpande Foundation, the symposium’s sponsors included VentureWell, the Morgan Foundation, the Lemelson-MIT Program, Cengage Learning, the University of Massachusetts system, Workbar, Enterprise Bank, Middlesex Community College, Babson College and CampusTap.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 17,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.