The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Research Foundation (UABRF) is currently developing an Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Approved February 8 by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, the Institute will further the Research Foundation’s capability to manage research on campus.
The Institute will serve to foster an entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystem, enhancing and facilitating service and technology commercialization. Further, its mission will include engagement of faculty in creating new classroom and experiential learning opportunities for students across campus, as well as encourage and cultivate interdisciplinary scholarly research and publication among faculty and clinicians.
“The Institute hopes to enhance the research on campus by marrying one group’s research with a group in a different discipline,” said David Winwood, the Chief Executive Officer of the UAB Research Foundation and Senior Associate Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation Alliances. “The collaborations will hopefully result in different approaches and answers to the problems we’re trying to solve in different areas of research.”
The Institute will form connections on campus by functioning as a communication center. Because of the size of the campus, some research groups may not be aware of the research being done elsewhere at UAB. “We want to break down barriers between pockets of capabilities and assets and make them more widely known and available to research around campus,” Winwood explained. “It’s all about building capacity, not about building anyone’s empire. All of the technology exists around campus and we’re trying to create a way to enhance [UAB’s] ability to work by providing the framework for it to communicate.”
By improving students’ ability to collaborate and develop relationships, the Institute aims to have a larger effect on the student body. “We hope to better prepare a workforce graduating from the university for new industry jobs,” Winwood said.
Students will have the opportunity to enroll in marketing and innovation classes, offered by the School of Business but open to students in any field of study. In these classes, students will become involved in ongoing work at the Institute. “We will provide real cases for the students to work on. There won’t be textbook study cases on how to do proof of concepts, or how to plan a market campaign or how to license something,” Winwood explained. “The classes will be like a product development group with the students’ involvement.”
The Institute will also interact with the larger Alabama community. Meetings and events conducted by organizations like Bio Alabama — an organization that connects researchers and businesses to develop the scientific industry in Alabama — will provide the opportunity to communicate with Alabama businesses, enabling such enterprises a stronger relationship with UAB and the technology available there.
The idea for the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship came from the collaboration of the School of Business and the UABRF. Other areas on campus, including the School of Engineering, have expressed an interest in participating in the organization. The Institute will initially function with current faculty and existing funding when it begins its work in early May.
For more information on the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, contact the Research Foundation at (205) 996–7298 or visit uab.edu/uabrf/.