A $23,000 grant will support Lawrence University’s growing innovation and entrepreneurship program, a university-wide initiative launched in 2008 that engages students, faculty and alumni.

The two-year grant from the National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance will target the program’s flagship course “In Pursuit of Innovation.”  Cross-taught through Lawrence’s economics and physics departments, the course incorporates the use of guest experts from various fields, intertwines innovation with entrepreneurship and employs a project-driven, hands-on component designed to develop a learning community eager to pursue innovative and entrepreneurial ventures.

Since its launch, 41 students have taken the “Innovation” course.  Operating in three-person teams and in conjunction with the FabLab, a prototyping facility at Fox Valley Technical College, students have worked on projects ranging from the development of a multi-directional split-field camera and an ergonomic student desk to a hand sanitizing system for hospitals and schools and a personal identification system that allows health records to be retrieved automatically in the event of an accident.

“From its inception, our course has focused on diverse teams creating innovative products or processes, leading to functioning prototypes,” said Adam Galambos, assistant professor of economics and one of the program’s originators, along with John Brandenberger, professor emeritus of physics and Marty Finkler, professor of economics.  “This grant will enable us to take the Innovation course to a whole new level with student ‘E-teams,’ which will translate ideas into new products or services that benefit society.

“With its long-standing commitment to the liberal arts and sciences, Lawrence is the ideal setting for a program that inspires students and faculty to create innovative new ventures that combine ideas from diverse backgrounds, fields and perspectives,” Galambos added.

The “Innovation” course is designed to prepare Lawrence students to become major contributors to a globally competitive American economy through an immersion in innovation and entrepreneurship.  Students in the course develop their own innovative ideas to lay the groundwork for entrepreneurial ventures, examine how innovation and entrepreneurship invigorate businesses and industries and their roles in creating new ones, study the innovation and entrepreneurship literature and interact with active, successful innovators and entrepreneurs.

“Our students learn to connect theory with the real-world experiences described by our visiting experts and to apply this learning to their own projects,” said Brandenberger.

The impetus for Lawrence’s “In Pursuit of Innovation” course was a highly-influential national publication entitled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” and a bipartisan piece of legislation leading to the 2007 America Competes Act, both of which warned of slippage in American competitiveness worldwide. The studies pointed toward increased emphasis on innovative and entrepreneurial effectiveness, especially in scientific, technological and engineering pursuits, as one solution to reverse the trend.

In addition to “In Pursuit of Innovation,” courses such as “Entrepreneurship and
Financial Markets ” and “Entrepreneurship in the Arts and Society” also are part of the effort to build an innovation and entrepreneurship program at Lawrence.

Based in Massachusetts, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance supports technology innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education to create experiential learning opportunities for students and socially beneficial businesses.