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GIST TechConnect Panel Highlights How Universities Can Support Entrepreneurs

September 19, 2017

For many young entrepreneurs looking to turn their ideas into reality, success can come from university support. During the GIST TechConnect “How Universities Can Support Entrepreneurs,” a live panel of educators and experts looked at how universities can help young entrepreneurs with their startups through, for example, assistance with the filing of patents and protection of intellectual property. According to the panel, intellectual property protections are especially important to entrepreneurs working in science and technology.

“Protecting your inventions is something that most entrepreneurs, especially in the [United] States, spend a lot of time thinking about and worrying about,” said Wiley Larson, co-founder and chief operations officer of Saccadous, Inc. “Here in Arizona, in addition to a student entrepreneurship program that provides some funding, we also have a small fund that helps those students pay for intellectual property protection and filing those patents.”

Larson also worked at Arizona State University’s Venture Development program, launching several startups before leaving to run his own. He said universities can help offset expenses for early-stage startups by covering the legal fees associated with protecting an invention.

Christina Pellicane, director of commercialization programs for the Horn Entrepreneurship Center at the University of Delaware, also touched on the intellectual property rights of students. She said many times, universities already have resources or faculty available to help an entrepreneur protect his or her innovation.

Looking at their own experiences, each panelist also provided examples of programs and resources that can help both universities and entrepreneurs. Many of the programs they talked about focused on the network support of college entrepreneurs, especially because these networks can lead to mentorship and funding opportunities.

“We actually have a five step process that’s kind of our framework,” explained Pellicane. “We have resources at each one of those steps along the that we can provide. And that resource could be a program, could be an activity, it could be a funding source, it could be just networking.”

Pellicane told the panel that at the University of Delaware, faculty and mentors work with student and community entrepreneurs to make sure they are able to build a successful startup. Other panelists agreed, adding that universities can also help build bridges with local communities.

“One of the most important things [University of Texas] does is it asks people in Austin to join it in the enterprise of innovation,” said Dr. Gregory Pogue, interim executive director and senior research scientist at the IC2 Institute in Austin, Texas. “We may give you some coffee, we may give you some time and you may get an early look, but this is an opportunity to benefit students and we find that people are very anxious to participate.”

Pogue also pointed to a university’s ability to build a community for young entrepreneurs that provides training, support and friendship. Everyone on the panel agreed these types of entrepreneurial networks are most likely to inspire young innovators to collaborate and create startups.

“Ask your administrators to set aside a centralizing point where students can aggregate to find experts of entrepreneurs, mentors and other groups,” Pogue said. “These types of centralizing functions that involve coffee and humans interacting are very, very important to draw people together. Entrepreneurship is a team sport.”

Viewing groups included:

- U.S. Embassy Tunis, Tunisia

- U.S. Embassy Baku, Azerbaijan

- American corner, Sousse, Tunisia

- American Space, San Pedro Sula, Honduras

- BNC Colombo Americano, Medellin, Colombia

- BNC Colombo Americano, Armenia, Colombia

- American Corner, Kano, Nigeria

- American Corner, Kigali, Rwanda

- American Corner, Kamenge, Burundi

- The John F. Kennedy Library, BNC Manizales, Colombia

- Youth Network for Reform at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia

- UTEC in Lima, Peru

- IDEA in Kampala, Uganda

- CTIC in Dakar, Senegal

- Goldilocks State in Skopje, Macedonia

- Rainergy in Azerbaijan

You can watch the full TechConnect on How Universities Can Support Entrepreneurs Below