Elevating Impact Through Alignment of University and Regional Ecosystem Goals
By Deborah D. Hoover
President & CEO
Burton D. Morgan Foundation
Entrepreneurship and education are two such extraordinary opportunities that need to be leveraged and interconnected if we are to develop the human capital required for building the societies of the future. Entrepreneurship is the engine fueling innovation, employment generation and economic growth. Only by creating an environment where entrepreneurship can prosper and where entrepreneurs can try new ideas and empower others can we ensure that the world’s issues will not go unaddressed. Educating the Next Wave of Entrepreneurs, World Economic Forum, 2009
In regions across the United States and Canada, university-based entrepreneurship champions and their ecosystem partners are forging deeper connections and finding ways to collaborate on shared regional and statewide goals centered on equitable economic growth. Deshpande Symposium 2022 will feature two panels focused on this emerging trend to strengthen bonds among university entrepreneurship/innovation programs, government, nonprofits, and the business community. The panels to be offered on June 16 will highlight collaborative initiatives underway in California, Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas, all aimed at building more effective, aligned, and impactful ecosystems that capitalize on regional assets. The two panels will encourage synergies through joint participation of panelists during small table discussions. We will also explore the possibility of forming a community of practitioners to continue discussions and learning throughout the year.
The goals of these regional initiatives are based on the premise that development of entrepreneurial skills is not just a precursor to launching a new venture. Employers in all sectors are beginning to prioritize the need for new hires to possess entrepreneurial and innovation skills. The pandemic era dramatically raised awareness of the imperative for students to become expert problem solvers. Fortunately, entrepreneurship and innovation programs abound on college and university campuses these days and graduates who have availed themselves of opportunities to develop and pitch ideas, start a venture, or intern at a startup have an advantage when it comes to advancing ideas within a company. These team members are more likely to be spurred into action and eager to share out-of-the-box ideas. Students who have experienced a dynamic entrepreneurial environment have witnessed the results generated by diversity of thought, reprisal-free experimentation, and collaboration with colleagues driven by purpose. Given this background, it makes sense we should focus considerable resources on ensuring as many students as possible at all levels of education are steeped in the elements of the entrepreneurial mindset.
Deshpande Symposium 2022 will welcome visitors to the heart of downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Northeast Ohio is home to more than twenty-five higher education institutions, most offering entrepreneurship programs and opportunities. The region has enjoyed robust connectivity and collaboration among higher education institutions in entrepreneurship through organic development of connective initiatives. Entrepreneurship Education Consortium (EEC) is a regional partnership of eleven universities that supports entrepreneurship education on their campuses and has served over 2,000 students with its programming. Northeast Ohio Student Venture Fund has engaged students in learning due diligence processes, thus far funding twenty-four companies that have raised more than $15 million in follow-on funding. JumpStart Higher Education Collaboration Council has delivered more than a decade of innovative programming, building a robust learning community of entrepreneurship educators working on Northeast Ohio campuses.
This history brings us to today and the desire to combine forces for greater impact. EEC is transforming into the region’s collegiate hub performing multiple functions, including experiential programming, internship matching, shared events and metrics, and more intentional connection to the business community. Through EEC’s partnerships with higher education, the region’s talent initiatives, and other ecosystem hubs, EEC is strengthening the university-based ecosystem and elevating experiences and opportunities for all college students in the region, thereby supporting attraction and retention efforts. The successes and benefits will flow directly to students, startups, universities, the business community, and the regional economy leading to a more comprehensive and navigable ecosystem for Northeast Ohio.
Burton D. Morgan Foundation and its partners will be excited to welcome all attendees to Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, and ready to learn from the experiences of others. The Symposium’s offsite workshops on June 15 will offer opportunities to visit key entrepreneurial hubs across the region where you can experience firsthand how the ecosystem pieces fit together. We look forward to seeing all of you in June for a celebration of entrepreneurship ecosystems and their bold champions!