Office of the President
Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.
Forum on Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Trabant University Center
April 19, 2012
It’s tough to follow the Black Eyed Peas, but I’ll try to keep the energy up.
I’m Pat Harker, president of the University of Delaware, and I’m thrilled to welcome you to our 2012 Forum on Innovation & Entrepreneurship. As you might’ve guessed from the video, this year’s theme is “Let’s Start It Up, Delaware!” So I’ll talk just briefly about what the University is doing to help create a vibrant startup community right here at home.
I want to emphasize the word “help” in that sentence—help create a vibrant startup community. Because what you just saw in that video is proof of a state that’s in this together. Industry, government, academia, and entrepreneurs are working together to make Delaware the place
where—I’ll channel Gov. Markell—people want to start businesses, build businesses, and grow businesses.
That process starts with connections. And we’ve been working on these connections for years. The entrepreneurial ecosystem I invoke so often—the ecosystem you’ll hear Ernie Dianastasis and Lee Mikles talk about in a little bit; the system that’s designed to provide full lifecycle support to inventors and entrepreneurs, from idea & opportunity through launch & development—it’s one system, designed to sustain this whole community of innovation.
We have a big advantage here in Delaware. We’re small enough to do this efficiently and well. We know each other, we like each other, we talk to each other. Seems basic, but you can’t underestimate its importance. And so to all the early-stage entrepreneurs in this room, I’d advise you to look around: These are the people you’ll need to get to know, if you don’t know them already.
UD’s Entrepreneurial Studies Program, our host today, is all about opening access to this network. It’s aggressively pursuing engagement with the startup community. And engagement is a two-way street.
On the one hand, we’re taking from this community. UD’s students get vital support from alumni, seasoned entrepreneurs, investors, and all sorts of consultants. They add enormous value to our curricular and co-curricular programs. They guest lecture, they mentor students, and coach student businesses. They dedicate more time and talent to our students and their projects than we have a right to expect.
On the other hand, we’re giving back to this same community. Last fall, we hosted the first-ever Startup Weekend: Delaware, giving teams of entrepreneurs 54 hours to prep, program, and pitch the perfect startup. We’ve launched a new track of our Hen Hatch—this one for alumni, faculty, and staff. Hen Hatch is UD’s premier startup funding competition, and you’ll see the competitors in action this afternoon. We’re teaming up with our ecosystem partners—many of whom are exhibiting today—in ways that benefit us all.
And that’s key, because this mutuality is how we create the community we want to be. In the video, I said a community that values invention and entrepreneurship is critical—not only because it strengthens the economy, but because that kind of community compels creative people to join it. Talent draws talent; innovators draw innovators.
Science and Technology Campus
UD is developing 272 acres just across S. College Avenue for these innovators. Our Science and Technology Campus will be a hub for research, development, and tech incubation; for faculty, scientists, and students within UD and for entrepreneurs outside it.
In less than two weeks, Bloom Energy—itself a young startup just 10 years ago—will break ground on 50 of those acres. The California-based fuel-cell company—supplying renewable energy to some of the biggest names in retail and tech—will locate its first East Coast manufacturing plant on the property.
The company is a perfect fit for UD. The University’s leadership in clean-energy technology is well known, and we’re so excited to have Bloom on campus, a day-to-day demonstration of the industry’s growth potential, and a powerful example that innovation drives our economy.
Getting Bloom to Delaware was a group effort—an effort of the Congressional delegation, the state, the General Assembly, Delmarva Power, and our economic-development partners who saw 1,500 jobs in the deal. And it’s another fantastic example of what’s possible when this community works together.
Of course, the Bloom tract is just a small part of our campus plans. We hope to soon roll out a concept for Phase I redevelopment—that’s development of the former Chrysler administration building and the attached manufacturing facility—about 170,000 square feet in all.
Strengthening Our Contribution
Our strength will be in filling that space, this space, this entire campus with people who want to exploit our research. We’re attracting high-profile faculty invested in the commercial potential of their discoveries. And we’re supporting the development of faculty-launched companies.
Our end-goal is to improve our institutional capacity to nurture homegrown innovation. With the Small Business and Technology Development Center now a part of our Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships, and with better collaboration between that office and our General Counsel’s office, our business development skills are stronger.
We’ve reengineered our IP process so that it’s less cumbersome and more transparent. Streamlining works: The number of invention disclosures is rising. But that success also gives us the luxury of being more selective in what we patent. We’re abandoning patents with low commercial promise, freeing up resources to concentrate on high-potential opportunities.
With a lot of the people in this room, we’re building strong partnerships with the local business and entrepreneurial communities. Our big collaborations with the Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground and with JPMorgan Chase continue to grow. In fact, we’ve just entered a regional cyber-security partnership that has us working again with some long-time collaborators: the Army’s RDECOM, JPMorgan Chase, and Delaware Tech, plus Harford Community College and science-and-tech giant SAIC.
This community of innovation is larger, stronger, and tighter than ever before. And it’s focused squarely on the end-game—making Delaware THE place to launch, develop, and grow your business.
Before I leave the podium, I want to thank today’s host, the University of Delaware’s Entrepreneurial Studies Program, and its faculty director, Dan Freeman. The program is still young, but you’d never know it. There’s so much excitement and energy in it. It’s something our students wanted and
needed—the perfect incubator and outlet for their ideas and creativity.
I also want to thank today’s sponsors: Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz, Belfint Lyons & Shuman, CorpCo, the New Castle Co. Chamber of Commerce Emerging Enterprise Center, and UD’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships.
Finally, I want to welcome the students from Glasgow High School’s Business & Entrepreneurship Academy. You’re the future of Delaware entrepreneurship, so take advantage of today’s networking opportunities. And be sure to pick the brains of the UD students you’ll meet; they’re you’re mentors-in-waiting.
Enjoy the afternoon!