Of course, most of the University’s entrepreneurial efforts involve the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship. Named in recognition of Class of 1967 alum Mark Ain and his wife Carolyn, the Center helps members of the University and greater Rochester community take their ideas and turn them into solutions for pressing social problems or valuable economic enterprises. By partnering with business, organizations, and entrepreneurs in the Rochester area and beyond, the Ain Center offers entrepreneurial expertise and important resources for collaboration, planning, and education. Those efforts result in business plan competitions, boot camps, technical challenges, the e5 (formerly KEY) program, Experts-in-Residence, and other initiatives aimed at transforming ideas into enterprises that create value. Also of special note are programs such as the Rochester Center for Community Leadership’s new Social Impact & Entrepreneurship Program, where students spend a semester in Washington, D.C. to develop the skills they need to be social entrepreneurs and find new ways to make the world ever better.
The spirit of Meliora is also inspiring innovation in some of the University’s most successful and established disciplines. This June, I attended the inaugural “Light Tomorrow Today” Demo Day event organized by Luminate, a startup business accelerator that provides resources and funding for entrepreneurs working in the photonics, optics, and imaging industries. As a program run by NextCorps, an affiliate organization of the University of Rochester, Luminate held the event near their offices at Sibley Square, where 10 finalist companies competed for $1 million in startup funding.
The winner of the $1 million award was the Boulder, Colorado business Double Helix, which uses new technology to turn two-dimensional images into high-resolution 3D information. As part of their award, Double Helix committed to operating out of Rochester for at least the next year and a half. Other winners that split a second million-dollar award included Intelon Optics Inc., Positive Science, Think Biosolution, and Molecular Glasses, Inc. Together they made an impressive showing, and their presence at the competition helped solidify Rochester, NY and NextCorps as emerging destinations for tech startups.
The University is proud to be an important part of Rochester’s entrepreneurial evolution. By marshaling the strength of interdisciplinary collaboration, we offer innovative programs of study such as the MS in Technical Entrepreneurship and Management (TEAM) program and the MS in Technical Entrepreneurship and Management in Biomanufacturing & Therapeutic Development that bring together expertise from all corners of the University, including the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Simon Business School, and the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Those collaborations help ensure our entrepreneurial graduates have the skills they need to positively impact their communities in a variety of ways.
Perhaps it’s not unusual that the University of Rochester shares a passion for entrepreneurship with the city it calls home. Together, we have been shaped by leaders, inventors, and visionaries who have changed how we view, illuminate, and imagine our world. I argue that it’s our mission to inspire and educate the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.