For Entrepreneurship Leaders at U-M, a Balance Between Teaching Innovation and Capitalizing On It

12/8/10

Timothy Faley, the managing director of the University of Michigan’s Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute or Entrepreneurial Studies, has a unique way of measuring his job performance.

“It’s always turbulent at the wave front,” he says. “I know I’m doing my job when I feel the tension.”

And indeed, according to Faley, the tension between his center’s practical approach to education and the more theoretical method valued by many in academe is constant, but that hasn’t stopped Faley and others at U-M from promoting a culture of entrepreneurship on campus. In the last four or five years, U-M’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has exploded, thanks in large part to programs like Zell Lurie, and university officials committed to faculty and student innovation. But leaders in U-M’s startup community say there’s still more work to be done.

Faley says one of the main obstacles his center has come up against in fostering a culture of entrepreneurship is actually one of the strengths of U-M

“The schools and colleges are very strong and independent and on the one hand that’s what makes it a great institution,” he says. “That’s all fine and good but when you want to do entrepreneurship, and you want to do it cross-culturally, and you want to integrate all institutions and all colleges, it becomes a challenge.”

Faley says his center has already had significant success breaking down cross-college barriers. The institute, which is housed in the business school, works with U-M’s Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering, U-M’s Medical Innovation Center, and other institutions to offer interdisciplinary courses focused on entrepreneurship and partnering to bring new technologies to commercialization and help the startup community grow.

Faley say his institute’s approach is to have students work on creating real companies with the ultimate goal of learning the process of taking an idea to commercialization. “We want to arm them with the skills to identify an opportunity and figure out how to frame that opportunity and how to create an actionable plan to attract the resources that you need,” he says.

Faley says it’s not realistic to expect a student to still be working with a company she launched as an undergraduate or MBA student 30 or 40 years down the line, which is why his goal is to graduate more students than companies. He added that … Next Page »

Jillian Berman is an intern for Xconomy Detroit. Follow @

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