Innovation in Higher Education in Connecticut

Connecticut has developed, with support from Penn IUR, a roadmap to foster innovation and entrepreneurship across the state’s public and private institutions of higher education. 

The Connecticut legislature initiated a $10 million fund to support collaborative work in facilitating entrepreneurship and innovation among the state’s institutions of higher education to be managed by CTNext, the state agency that fosters growth in startup and early-stage businesses and links startups to promote greater business activity. The legislature mandated the development of a strategic plan to guide the dispersal of funds. At the inaugural meeting of the state’s 38 college and university presidents hosted by Peter Salovey, President, Yale University, the leaders created the Working Group on Entrepreneurship and Innovation chaired by Joanne Berger-Sweeney, President, Trinity College and Mark Ojakian, President, Connecticut State College and University System, to undertake the plan.

Subsequently, the Working Group, familiar with Penn IUR’s work on anchor institutions and innovation, retained Penn IUR to assist in the plan’s development. Between December 2016 and April 2017, Penn IUR Co-Director Eugénie Birch and Penn IUR Project Manager Amanda Lloyd interviewed administrators and faculty at more than 20 universities around the state to discuss their programs, initiatives, and goals for supporting entrepreneurship and innovation at their institutions. Concurrently, Birch moderated four Working Group meetings to assess the scope and scale of programs, opportunities, and risks; examine higher education’s collective capacity to catalyze a thriving innovative economy and incubate an entrepreneurial workforce across the state; establish a strategic roadmap to promote collaboration and cooperation among the state’s colleges and universities; and identify funding priorities for state-funded higher education entrepreneurship grants. Penn IUR managed the project and drafted the Working Group’s plan, Entrepreneurship & Innovation in Connecticut’s Higher Education System: A Catalytic Roadmap for Higher Education Collaboration

The plan assesses the state’s current assets and opportunities in relation to innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education, offers a set of recommendations to strengthen the innovation ecosystem across its colleges and universities and lists criteria for evaluating grant applications. It calls for continued support for building the networks and relationships that emerged during the planning process, the creation of regional hubs to share educational, mentoring, and legal and business advice for start-ups, and the development of a state resource portal. Sweeney, Ojakian, and Birch presented the plan to the CTNext board that is currently implementing it.


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