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Universities Turn Focus on Entrepreneurship to Boost Regional Economies

August 21, 2013

Recognizing startup businesses as a powerful force in building stronger local economies, a number of universities across the country have announced significant expansions in their entrepreneurship offerings over the last few weeks. Universities in Missouri and Virginia have announced new and expanded entrepreneurship programs for students, while a nationwide network of top business schools, including Babson College, Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco, plans to launch an online entrepreneurship program that can be licensed to other schools. The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded $2.5 million in grants through its 2013 University Center Economic Development Program that will be used to support regional entrepreneurship and innovation.

Large private donations spurred the increase in entrepreneurship offerings at Virginia’s Old Dominion University (ODU) and the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). A $10 million gift to ODU from the Strome Family Foundation will be used to create a new entrepreneurial curriculum for the university, along with an entrepreneurship center, mentoring program and a push for cross-disciplinary resources. ODU President John R. Broderick announced the plans last week, emphasizing the need to integrate entrepreneurship education into every area of study in order to foster a startup culture in the Hampton Roads region.

In Missouri, a $32 million donation to UMKC led to the opening of the Henry W. Block Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which features a prototyping lab to help develop new products and a behavioral research lab to study consumer behavior. The Bloch School of Management’s entrepreneurship programs require many students to start businesses before graduation. The facilities at the new building will help expand the offerings for student entrepreneurs, combining academic classes with product development labs. At Western Michigan University, students also will be able to combine entrepreneurial coursework with product and business development through a new student business accelerator. Starting Gate will operate as a 24-hour, mentor-based accelerator and will begin activities next month.

Entrepreneurs from Stanford University plan to use their online education platform to expand the entrepreneurial curriculums of colleges and universities across the country. NovoEd Inc. has secured deals with Stanford, Babson Colleges and the University of California, San Francisco, to host online classes on a variety of entrepreneurship-related topics, including financing new ventures, sustainable product development and entrepreneurial leadership. The courses can be licensed by other institutions to offer an entrepreneurship curriculum to their students. Most courses also will be open to the public.

EDA recently awarded $2.5 million in grants to 19 universities in states supported by EDA’s Austin and Denver Offices. EDA-supported University Centers help support entrepreneurship and high-tech clusters by providing a wide variety of services for regional businesses, including, but not limited to, university spinoffs. Each of these grants is intended to support these centers for five-years of operation.  Many of the services provided by University Centers are tailored to the needs of local industries. For example, Louisiana’s McNeese State University plans to use the center to build a stronger chemical industry regional cluster, while Phillip Community College at the University of Arkansas will target farm product development. A complete list of these awards, centers and services is available on the EDA site.

Missouri, Virginiahigher ed, entrepreneurship, regions, federal agency