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Barack Obama talks about it. Amy Gutmann talks about it. Innovation has become a buzzword both in government and at universities.

“There’s a big move within universities on how to create a different career path for our students around entrepreneurship and startups,” Penn Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli said. He listed the innovation community at Drexel University, Stanford University’s StartX and Harvard University’s innovation lab as just a few examples.

As a part of the Penn Compact 2020, the future Pennovation Center at the South Bank will be a hub for technology and innovation. The Center is not the University’s first venture into supporting new ideas. The Weiss Tech House, a student-run hub, provides educational programs and resources for students as they explore and develop their technologies.

Universities across the country are making similar efforts to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

Courses and Degrees in Innovation

Some universities are answering the demand for an increased knowledge of innovation by offering courses and degrees in entrepreneurship. The University of Colorado’s Innovation and Entrepreneur Degree Program offers a Bachelor of Innovation degree that offers an alternative to a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree. Majors in the program include computer science, electrical engineering and business administration.

Such programs are still relatively new and face the issue of accreditation. “The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University,” a document by the United States Department of Commerce, forecasts the accreditation and expansion of these programs.

The Skandalaris Center Internship Program at Washington University in St. Louis offers a student internship program that offers 25 paid internships to students who get involved with a start-up company and participate in workshops. The program began offering internships for growth companies — former start-ups which exhibit potential — in 2013 as well.

Innovation Spaces

Other universities have taken the “two heads are better than one approach” by developing communities that foster innovation.

Harvard’s innovation lab, or i-lab, was started in 2011 and provides any Harvard student who wishes to pursue a venture or start-up with resources, educational programming and opportunities for collaboration.

The i-lab also promotes a less structured environment that encourages “learning by doing” in an experiential setting. Students can participate in hack labs, immersion trips and challenges.


Stanford’s StartX is a nonprofit organization created in 2011 that creates a community of founders and entrepreneurs who can learn and work together. StartX’s Accelerator Program requires no fees and takes no equity, but it is supported through foundation grants and corporate partnerships. It provides founders with need-based stipends for housing and meal expenses. Founders within the program also receive mentors who help them grow their companies.

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