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How Universities can Promote Innovation

How Universities can Promote Innovation
Tuesday, 21 November 2017

In order to be able to have the ideas behind academic spin-offs it is necessary to promote R&D and overall innovative and inspirational practices within a university. Therefore it should come as no surprise that more universities than ever are increasingly creating labs for this research and development, starting incubator and accelerator programs, and generally promoting innovation [1].

However, promoting innovation at any level is not always easy, and in a time-tested traditional institution like the university, this task can seem nearly impossible. Allison Dulin Salisbury, from the online paper and networking site EdSurge [2], provides us with some insight on how to be successful with innovation within universities [1].

The first thing that Salisbury highlights is the need for aligning the roles and goals of the team to be able to lead innovation in an effective and efficient way. In addition, it is important to have innovation leaders, like storytellers, who inspire the university community into change and convoke a sense of collaboration within this community. [1] By creating a culture of teamwork and collaboration, a university is able to deliberately build and nourish innovation over time [3].

The other two essential roles can be seen with the champion and the founder. A champion is the person who pushes the innovation agenda by explaining ‘why’ institutional innovation is important. Where the champion works to convince, the founder will lead specific initiatives, often times failing while experimenting with new ideas until they find success. [1] This founder must follow the principle of “try, try, and try again”, viewing innovation not as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but as a process from which to learn, discover, and explore [3].

Finally, Salisbury insists that, while each individual has an important role, there cannot be an ‘I’ on the team, but that collaboration is essential for innovation success. All of the members involved in promoting innovation should work together in order to form a strong base in the university community. [1] When done correctly, it is possible to imbed entrepreneurial values and innovation skills into the curriculum of students from the beginning of their university experience [4].