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

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across campus in the past several years for students and faculty to develop actual technologies and companies.

“I think there’s an acceptance among the leadership at the university that this is something that’s really important for society, something we should really be doing to bring these potential innovations forward,” he says.

He added that U-M isn’t alone in its commitment to taking research innovations to the next level.

“There’s been a recognition among those who get the most money for research that most of them now are attempting to do this and the question is who is going to do it best,” he says.

James Geiger, the executive director of U-M’s Medical Innovation Center, says he wants that place to be Michigan.

“I put together the Medical Innovation Center because I really saw that we have so many amazing resources at Michigan and that we weren’t necessarily always connecting them as well as we could to do true innovation,” he says.

Geiger says the goal of his center is to address this disconnect between research discoveries and the means to capitalize on them through programs such as a fellowship that brings together MBAs, doctors, dentists, and post-doctorate engineers to learn from each other and develop the skills to create commercially viable medical technologies.

“I had seen at other places where this activity had more spontaneously happened or had been encouraged in other ways,” he says. “It isn’t a part of our culture a much as it is at other places.”

U-M’s President Mary Sue Coleman and the school’s Vice President for Medical Affairs Ora Pescovitz “understand the potential of innovation,” Geiger says, but more needs to be done—like rewarding faculty who come up with marketable intellectual property or viable companies—to really harness the school’s potential.

“We are this huge place of great discovery we just now need to figure out a way to leverage that,” he says.

Geiger added that the stakes are higher than simply U-M’s reputation as an innovative institution.

“A lot of people are looking at this as a solution to our economy and I think it could definitely help,” he says. “We want to be moving things off our campus to improve the world.”

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