What is the role of a university in supporting entrepreneurship and innovation for its students, faculty, and community? Arizona State University is one model.
Arizona State University is guided by its charter which explicitly states we assume “…fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural, and overall health of the communities…” we serve. And of our eight design principles, ASU includes “Value Entrepreneurship: ASU uses its knowledge and encourages innovation.”
At ASU, we view the upholding of our design principle to value entrepreneurship as a pan-university effort and thus offer resources from courses to competitions, mentors to makerspaces, faculty to funding, as a shared support services model across ASU. We find the tools and resources designed to help students, faculty, and community entrepreneurs start or scale a new company can also provide opportunities to expand problem-solving and critical thinking skills to those who aren’t “venturing”. This pan-university, discipline-agnostic approach is as important to us as the number of startups launched or amount of capital raised.
The Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative supports ASU student entrepreneurs. Every year, through a competitive process, select student-led ventures receive up to $20K in seed funding, venture development training, dedicated mentorship, and use of office and co-working space as well as other resources such as access to makerspaces for prototyping. In the ten years since the program began, ASU has been able to support 264 student-led ventures with $2.2M in funding which has led to more than double in additional investments.
ASU is fortunate to be a part of a National Science Foundation-funded program, the NSF I-Corps, which enables colleges and universities to provide venture development training and support to faculty-led teams helping to move inventions and intellectual property out of the labs and classrooms into the marketplace. As an NSF I-Corps Site, ASU provides faculty with venture development training based on the Lean Startup and Business Model Canvas, and nominal support for customer discovery.
There are many ASU programs where we collaborate with community-based organizations as well as civic and governmental organizations to provide programs and support for community entrepreneurs. These programs include the Entrepreneurship Outreach Network, where we provide resources to local entrepreneurs through our network of public libraries, and Prepped, an entrepreneurship support program that delivers training in food handling, costing, and certifications to low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs with mobile food-based businesses.
ASU’s approach to entrepreneurship and innovation can be characterized by its prioritization of inclusivity throughout all of its programming. ASU was recently selected as a Kauffman Foundation Inclusion Challenge grant winner for increasing the participation of women and under-represented entrepreneurs. Through the Kauffman Inclusion Challenge grant, we were able to host a day-long design thinking workshop at ASU with over 50 program managers and leaders, considering how to increase participation of female and minority entrepreneurs by at least 25%. We will be seed-funding the best ideas that emerged from that workshop to implement them.
It’s in the spirit of connecting and collaborating and with intentional inclusivity, that ASU is privileged to have the opportunity to help great ideas come to life and great people come together.