Posted on 03/12/17 by Natalie Monkou
Nestled between the start of the interactive phase of SXSW and the end of SXSWedu was one panel focused on the fusion of education and technology. “The Rise of Academic Incubators” hosted by Texas A&M University left me with five lessons about EdTech and why academic incubators are essential to the innovation space.
Academic incubators are paramount to pushing the boundaries of innovation.
Universities are not usually known for being sexy trendsetters. In fact, their traditional governing structures put them in the conservative category. Nevertheless, academic incubators put young, passionate students in a place where they can execute the newest ideas to all types of challenges. In Virginia, we have several universities that understand this concept. Both James Madison University and George Mason University both have innovation centers that foster student ideas.
Serendipity and innovation are not to be overlooked on academic campuses or elsewhere.
What are the chances that young entrepreneurs, future cofounders and leading team members will meet in History, Finance or Bioscience 101? Very likely. And the chances increase inside the university's incubator. Why does this matter? Because a strong team makes it easier for companies to receive support from mentors and investors—whether that be family, friends or a VC.
Diversity is a unifying and valuable component of innovation.
When academic institutions create great incubators, it’s a representation of an entrepreneurial mindset being adopted from the top. An intentional entrepreneurship mindset insists that top faculty from all schools and backgrounds are part of creating and maintaining the innovation lab. Entrepreneurs benefit from this type of collaboration and innovation can truly take place. In fact, diversity is what makes the difference for universities that want to create an academic incubator but hesitate because they do not have a large endowment fund.
Great academic incubators work beside the academic experience.
Universities have an advantage to creating environments where ideas can flourish because they are great places to bring together quality expert advisors, create experiential opportunities, hackathons, innovation challenges and more for students. Essential to the success of creating academic incubators on campus is having knowledgeable faculty and staff across all departments that can identify when a student has a great idea and help it to develop. Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia are both great examples of universities that understands how important innovation is to the academic experience.