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Symposium Spotlights Entrepreneurship

Deshpande Event Draws Attendees from Across the Globe

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Entrepreneur Gururaj 'Desh' Deshpande speaks to student innovation fellows at last year’s Deshpande Symposium.

By David Perry

“They’re coming from Europe, from India, Africa, Canada,” says Steven Tello, still marveling at the draw of the Deshpande Symposium for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education. It all began in 2012 as an intimate gathering of invited professionals.

 “The whole thing has grown, but our international outreach especially,” adds Tello, UMass Lowell’s associate vice chancellor of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. 

The symposium, June 9 to 11 at venues across campus, gathers academics, policy planners and practitioners to find the best ways to introduce entrepreneurship to students, faculty and the community at large.  Representatives from Arizona State, Carnegie Mellon, Rice, the University of North Carolina and dozens of other institutions will be in attendance. 

“The university is preparing to welcome more than 300 forward-thinking leaders to our campus for the fourth annual Deshpande Symposium, and it has become one of our most exciting events since its inception,” says UMass Lowell Executive Vice Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney. “The symposium is growing and thriving and drawing participants from around the world with a common goal — accelerating innovation and entrepreneurship across colleges and universities. It is a great example of peer-to-peer entrepreneurship, and it also gives us a chance to show off our growing campus and greater Lowell.” 

What began modestly has swelled since its 2012 debut. Last year, more than 250 participants took part, a full 100 more than 2013.

This year, with keynote speakers Subra Suresh — Carnegie Mellon University president and former director of the National Science Foundation — and entrepreneur and co-founder Jeff Hoffman, as many as 325 people may register, says Tello. In addition to the conference sessions, attendees will have the opportunity to tour campus research facilities, including the Mark and Elisia Saab Emerging Technology and Innovation Center and the Raytheon-UMass Lowell Research Institute.

The symposium aligns with a growing emphasis that has taken shape at the university melding entrepreneurship with the curriculum, taking business ideas from the drawing board to real life through real-world experience. Several initiatives, including the DifferenceMaker program, new Maker Space for hands-on prototyping and experimentation on North Campus and the new Innovation Hub which offers lab space in downtown Lowell for budding engineers and entrepreneurs, have helped earn UMass Lowell designation as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public Land-grant Universities and its Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness and Economic Prosperity.

Symposium attendees will hear nationally known speakers and colleagues discuss a series of subjects filtered through four lenses: Developing Entrepreneurial Universities, Culture & Ecosystems; Entrepreneurship in the Curriculum; University Research Commercialization and Startups, and Emerging Trends and Topics.

 For more information about the symposium, including a copy of the agenda, visit