A new Wharton Innovation Fund announced on Wednesday will offer 25 $5,000 grants to students, faculty and staff to pursue creative business ideas.
1959 Wharton MBA recipient Alberto Vitale created the fund to address “large-scale problems with creative thinking,” Innovation Group Managing Director Don Huesman said.
Vitale said in a statement that he hopes the Fund, which will offer a total of $125,000 a year, will be “a catalyst to stimulate innovation at [Penn] and to surface the brainpower of its students.”
According to Vice Dean of Innovation Karl Ulrich, who administers the Fund with the Innovation Group, innovation is key.
“Innovation is the source of improvement and economic growth in society,” Ulrich wrote in an e-mail. For Ulrich, supporting innovation means supporting students, alumni and the business world.
For Vitale, it was important to create a group that could “have a significant impact on the student experience at Penn,” Ulrich wrote in an e-mail.
In order to receive a grant, applicants must submit their innovative ideas to a panel of advisers. This panel — which will be made up of students, faculty, alumni and senior staff members — will judge to see if an applicant should receive the $5,000 grant to help apply an innovative idea to the business world, Huesman said.
“Our current primary criteria are that the project be essentially a new product, a new service,” he said, adding that the Fund will support projects in their early stages.
Huesman outlined three different types of projects that would be eligible for funding.
Faculty have already approached the Fund for the first type of project — those that begin in the classroom through the guidance of professors.
The second kind involve student-led projects. These may come from student entrepreneurs or class groups, Huesman said, adding that five groups have already approached him about the Fund.
Finally, the Fund will also support ideas that reach fruition in the classroom and are technically owned by the University, Huesman said, describing this as “commercializing [the] intellectual property of the school itself.”
Although the University offers other resources for innovators, such as the Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs and the Weiss Tech House, the Fund “complements those resources by supporting students who wish to pursue big ideas and take them beyond what they can do within their courses,” Ulrich added.
The scale of the Fund is what sets it apart from other innovation projects on campus. “We look for big ideas that can have a major impact in society,” Ulrich wrote.
Huesman and Vitale are hopeful that the Innovation Fund will help make a difference — not just in the Penn community, but in the world at large.
“Our first marching order is to encourage and stimulate people to think big,” Huesman said.
The Innovation Fund began accepting applications on Wednesday.
“We’re inviting all comers to bring their ideas and think creatively,” Huesman said.Comments powered by Disqus
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