Buzzing with Innovation

Illustration of the innovative process, including people whiteboarding, teaching, working in groups, building and more.IMAGE: Adam Simpson

From one edge of the Case Western Reserve University campus to another thrives an innovative and entrepreneurial environment that looks much like a living ecosystem. It's where individuals are nurtured and challenged; where they tinker, create, research and interact in intentional collaborations or unexpected meetups that can lead to incredible journeys.

The creative interaction is vital. So is the environment, which galvanizes undergraduates pursuing creative endeavors; alumni coming back for help launching businesses; and faculty, staff and graduate students turning research into ventures that can improve lives and help drive economic growth.

"We love creating new knowledge, but even more importantly, our mission is to benefit society with the knowledge that we create," said Suzanne Rivera, PhD, the university's vice president for research and technology management and an associate professor of bioethics.

And what's happening on campus and around the region is gaining international attention, thanks to a number of factors including "Beyond Silicon Valley: Growing Entrepreneurship in Transitioning Economies," a massive open online course taught by assistant professor of design and innovation Michael Goldberg that has attracted more than 135,000 students from 190 countries.

Even as the stories spread, the ecosystem grows— launching new initiatives, opening two more floors of the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box] innovation center, providing the entrepreneurial education students crave and securing more resources to support new endeavors.

And yet, just as happens nationally, many of the businesses started on campus will fail to flourish. It's a risk that's easier to take with the university's support systems. While Case Western Reserve by no means has a corner on venture-creation education, its offerings and initiatives help build skills for a lifetime of innovative and entrepreneurial thinking, be it within an established company, nonprofit or a startup.

With the expansion of Sears think[box] and the earlier $93 million sale of a company that began with technology initially developed on campus, now is the perfect time to review the ecosystem and some of its impact.