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Updated 11:50 AM October 25, 2007
 

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New entrepreneurship center established at CoE

Young inventors can help stoke the state's economy and the new Center for Entrepreneurial Programs at the College of Engineering will help make that happen.
Zurbuchen (File Photo / Bill Wood, U-M Photo Services)

"When we have an economic crisis in the state like we do now, we also have opportunities," says David Munson, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering. "Our new center will promote an entrepreneurial economy and it will enrich our students.

"It's not that we think every student needs a start-up, but there's a creativity and innovative spirit that's associated with the start-up mentality and we'd like to weave that thread through our curriculum."

Thomas Zurbuchen, professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences and Aerospace Engineering, will direct the new center.

"We've never needed this more in the state of Michigan," Zurbuchen says. "In the College of Engineering, we have some of the best faculty and students, many of whom are innovators. We will enable them to become entrepreneurs."

The center will focus on:

• Advising the new entrepreneurship-focused CoE student group MPowered. The group has hundreds of members already;

• Connecting CoE alumni who work in the start-up community with current students;

• Providing grants for students to pursue their own ideas for companies and products;

• Simplifying and clarifying student intellectual property transfer processes; and

• Developing an entrepreneurship certificate program so engineering students can take courses in innovation and business from U-M professors or members of the broader entrepreneurial community.

The center grew out of the college's Committee on Entrepreneurial Environment and Programs, a group of faculty that was formed in January and released recommendations in May in the report "Empowering Entrepreneurial Students."

The center is supported by an anonymous gift of nearly $1 million.

This is the newest effort to enable entrepreneurship at U-M focused on the CoE. The Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies is part of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. Across the University, other programs are seeking to include business courses in their curricula, says Stephen Forrest, vice president for research and the William Gould Dow Collegiate Professor of Electrical Engineering, professor of materials science and engineering and professor of physics.

"We have to bridge the gap between inventor and venture capitalist," Forrest says. "This is an excellent topic for the College of Engineering to be taking a lead in."

To read the entire "Empowering Entrepreneurial Students" report, go to www-personal.umich.edu/~ashwinl/CEEPS-FinalReport.pdf.

For more on Zurbuchen, go to aoss.engin.umich.edu/people/thomasz.

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