Project Title:Encouraging Entrepreneurship at Northern Illinois UniversityInstitution Name:Northern Illinois University
Innovation Category:Economic and Workforce Development
Project Director:Lisa C. Freeman, Vice President for Research & Graduate StudiesContact Information:(815) 753-1883,
Project Description:NIU seeks to encourage innovation among faculty and students in programs
across campus, and is employing a multi-faceted approach to make the knowledge,
experiences, skills and attitudes associated with entrepreneurship more
accessible to individuals outside of the College of Business. To this end, existing
faculty and staff associated with entrepreneurship programs in the Colleges of
Business and Engineering/Engineering Technology are reaching out to students,
faculty and staff from other academic disciplines within the university.
University resources are being invested in new initiatives focused on expanding
the opportunities for entrepreneurship training and industry collaboration available
to members of all academic disciplines. In addition, NIU is actively supporting
pre-college entrepreneurship education programs in Illinois.
The NIU College of Business sponsors a social
venture business plan competition where participating teams include students
from not only Business, but also Engineering/Engineering Technology, and
Liberal Arts and Sciences.
The Office of the Vice President for Research
and the NIU Foundation are sponsoring Venture Grants focused on early stage
development of faculty R&D. Interdisciplinary teams of faculty and students
will develop a business plan and a fast pitch based on faculty inventions to
compete for proof-of-concept funding.
NIU is a partner in two entrepreneurship
education initiatives targeted to pre-college students: Econ Illinois and the
Illinois R&D STEM Learning Exchange.
Six interdisciplinary student teams competed in
the first NIU social venture plan business competition, with the winner, “Light
Up Africa,” receiving $10,000 in seed money and going on to the Dell Social
Innovation Challenge. Goals are to increase program participation and to
enhance success of all participants in moving ideas to market
The initial Venture Grants competition will take
place in spring of 2013. Intended outcomes include:
- Extended collaboration among broad cross-section
of NIU students and faculty
- Translation of NIU’s best ideas into viable
products and services
- Advancement of NIU’s innovation ecosystem.
Increased university-industry collaboration is a
desired outcome for each objective
Challenges/Problems Encountered:Communicating effectively across disciplinary boundaries is
a challenge, due tothe physical and cultural
separation of academic communities at NIU. A combination of mass communication,
social media, targeted group and individual outreach is being employed to
inform and engage the NIU community about new and ongoing activities. To
address the issues that arise because entrepreneurship is relatively new to
higher education and still emerging as a legitimate academic field of study,
the campus dialogue is emphasizing the relationship between innovation and
entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship is prominent in the overall strategy
because social justice and student engagement are NIU core values.
Evaluation Approach:Participant feedback
is used for continuous program improvement. Faculty innovation is measured in
part by tracking invention disclosures, patents, licenses/deals, start-ups.
Industry collaboration is assessed by tracking the number/dollar value of
contracts, consortial and affiliation agreements with an industry partner, as
well as industry sponsored R&D. Student entrepreneurship will be measured
by tracking student participation in academic programs, extra-curricular
activities and competitions where students have the opportunity to think, plan
and act as entrepreneurs.
Potential for Replication:The overall success
of any multi-faceted strategy to increase student and faculty innovation and
entrepreneurship will depend on campus buy-in to component programs. The
strategy should include efforts to expand and broaden participation in programs
with a proven track-record, as well as incentives to engage faculty and
students in new initiatives. Complementary initiatives focused on pre-college
students may be used to enhance on-campus efforts, and will facilitate the
recruitment of students who possess an entrepreneurial mindset.
CEO-to-CEO Contact:John G. Peters
, Presidentjpeters@niu.eduDate Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012