Got the Next Great Idea?


This New York Times article discusses the emergence of university startup incubators and the role they play in guiding eager undergraduates in the early stages of their business ideas. As of 2012, about 1/3 of the 1,250 incubators in the United States were at universities, up 1/5 from 2006.  These incubators, often competitive to gain access to, offer the tools and direction necessary to turn business ideas into reality. However, the article discusses a potential drawback of using university incubators: if a student receives a university grant, is paid by the university for their work, or if their idea is developed with faculty, they may not be sole owners of their inventions in terms of I.P.  At the University of Michigan, this possibility had a chilling effect until the university agreed to give students sole ownership of their inventions, even if they worked on them using university equipment or in a course. The article also makes an interesting point about the value of incubators to universities. Although it is clear that most startups run by undergraduates are not profitable and never will be, there is great incentive for universities to encourage student businesses. The success of alumni reflects positively on the school. Successful alumni also provide donations and job opportunities for future students. All of this ties into my last post which noted that universities excessively promoting entrepreneurial coursework, pitch competitions, and incubators may dissuade some students from pursuing other viable career paths.

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