June 13, 2018

The University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute was the winner of this year’s Deshpande Symposium Award for Exemplary Practice in Technology Commercialization. Shown at the awards presentation on Tuesday, June 12 at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center are from left, Jack Wilson, UMass president emeritus and UMass Lowell distinguished professor of higher education, emerging technologies and innovation; Evan Facher, University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute interim director; Babs Carryer, University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute director of education and outreach; and Phil Weilerstein, president and CEO of VentureWell and symposium steering committee member. (Photo credit: Tory Wesnofske for Deshpande Symposium/UMass Lowell)

Pitt Among Universities Recognized for Growing Culture of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 Exemplary Practice in Technology Commercialization Award by the Awards Committee for the Deshpande Symposium on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education.

The Deshpande Foundation and the University of Massachusetts Lowell, co-host the Deshpande Symposium, which is now in its seventh year. Each year it brings together over 350 thought leaders from 100 plus higher education institutions to discuss and share their learning on emerging strategies and successful practices that encourage innovation and entrepreneurship within the curriculum, in accelerating ideas to commercialization and engaging students on campus in entrepreneurship.

“Entrepreneurship is fueling economic growth and development around the world and we are proud to honor the institutions and individuals recognized by the Deshpande Symposium Awards for their leadership and commitment to educating the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said University of Massachusetts Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney, co-founder of the Deshpande Symposium for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education and awards committee member.

Raj Melville, executive director of the Deshpande Foundation, said his organization received a record number of applications for the various award categories this year.  “The finalists in each category represent outstanding examples in advancing entrepreneurship in their category and excellent role models for their peer institutions,” Melville said.

“It is an honor to receive the Deshpande Symposium award for Exemplary Practice in Technology Commercialization,” said Rob Rutenbar, Senior Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Pittsburgh. “This award is a reflection of the talent and dedication of the Innovation Institute staff, and of the commitment of Pitt leadership to growing the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University.”

The Innovation Institute was created in late 2013 to serve as the hub for innovation and entrepreneurship at Pitt, merging the offices of Technology Management and Enterprise Development with the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, which provides education, networking and consulting services to small businesses. The Innovation Institute during the past four years has expanded the services and resources it provides to Pitt faculty, staff, students and companies in the region to take their ideas and discoveries from concept to market.

These efforts have resulted in record innovation and entrepreneurship activity at Pitt over the past five years. Fiscal 2017 witnessed the third consecutive year that the University set new records for invention disclosures (329), patents issued (102) and startups formed from Pitt research discoveries (15).  A new record has already been established for Pitt startups in Fiscal 2018 (ending June 30), of 22.

The Innovation Institute is also responding to a growing demand for student entrepreneurship education and recently launched the Big Idea Center for student entrepreneurship with a seed gift of $2 million from Pitt trustee Bob Randall. Mr. Randall and his family have previously sponsored the Randall Family Big Idea Competition, which for the past 10 years has awarded $100,000 in prizes to Pitt student entrepreneurs.

“While we are proud of our progress, we understand that innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education is a relatively young and ever-evolving domain. We look forward to continuing to share our experience while learning from our colleagues at other institutions. This is the value that the Deshpande Symposium brings to us all,” said Evan Facher, interim director of the Innovation Institute, who was on hand to receive the award at the symposium.