Historically black colleges and universities are coming together to encourage entrepreneurial ventures and thinking among their students and faculty. Kicking off the initiative is the first HBCU Innovation and Entrepreneurship Collaborative Symposium in late March in conjunction with the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance’s Annual OPEN Conference.
Hosted also by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the effort will include a cohort of 15 HBCUs committed to participating in a multiyear partnership to foster innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship on their respective campuses, says John Michael Lee, Jr., vice president of APLU’s office for access and success for the advancement of public black universities and Hispanic-serving institutions.
The collaborative was inspired by discussions at the United Negro College Fund HBCU Innovation Summit held in October 2013, Lee says. The ultimate goal is to increase metrics like the number of patents, licenses and faculty/student start-ups at HBCUs.
Tactics may include creating courses or extracurricular groups where students are given opportunities to develop mobile apps and work with open source technology. Experiences such as these could help HBCU students become more competitive in the workforce and inspire faculty research projects.
“It’s not only about how to make money for your university; it’s how you change the outlook for students who may be interested in fields like business, engineering and technology,” Lee says. “By HBCUs coming together, they can learn about what they can do with the resources they already have.”
At the symposium, funded by the Lemelson Foundation, participants worked with administrators, faculty and students to present and generate ideas for action.
Smaller, future meetings may allow more interaction between schools and program partners.