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Scientific and Technological Entrepreneurship

We will... work to infuse understanding and encouragement of entrepreneurship through all schools and programs and cultivate a campus culture that provides the spirit and motivation for inventors to pursue commercialization.

Since 1824, Rensselaer faculty, students, and alumni have been known for their entrepreneurial spirit and success. They have played major roles in the creation, design, construction, and commercialization of the technologies upon which today’s society depends.

Homebuyer Incentive Program

Neighborhood Renewal: Money for Homebuyers
Offering $5,000 to qualified homebuyers who purchase a home in targeted neighborhoods directly north and south of campus, Rensselaer launched its Homebuyer Incentive Program in December 2001. The program is part of the Neighborhood Renewal Incentive outlined in The Rensselaer Plan.

No income limitations are required to apply, nor are applications limited to first-time home-buyers. And, although Rensselaer community members get preference, the grant is not limited to Rensselaer staff, faculty, or students. Buyers, however, must commit to living in the home as their primary residence for five years.

Potential buyers choose houses for sale in the targeted areas and then apply for the funds at the Troy Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (TRIP) Homeownership Center in downtown Troy. In the collaborative effort, TRIP manages the application and approval process. In addition to the grant, Rensselaer provides legal services for closings.

Rensselaer committed $50,000 for 10 grants in fiscal year 2000 and the Howard & Bush Foundation, a charitable organization that benefits Rensselaer County residents, provided an additional $25,000 grant to support the program.
Now, rapid technological change and an emerging global marketplace are transforming the world and presenting unprecedented opportunities for scientific and technological entrepreneurship. Rensselaer’s students must be prepared to succeed in the world of tomorrow.

Education, Research, and Encouragement
Rensselaer’s Incubator program, Technology Park, and Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship were already national models and rich resources for faculty and students when Rensselaer trustee Mike Herman ’62 and his wife, Karen, gave $1 million to make Rensselaer the first technological university where students in all fields will learn the principles of entrepreneurship and what it takes for companies to succeed in the 21st century.

The Hermans’ gift provided start-up funds to infuse entrepreneurship throughout the entire curriculum. Entrepreneurship is being embedded into the first-year experience and it will become a critical component of capstone experiences requiring students to solve a significant, open-ended design problem and show competency in recognizing and assessing market opportunities and executing business plans.

Unique opportunities for Rensselaer student entrepreneurs include the RPIdea Lab — a room in the Incubator filled with desks, phones, fax machines, a reference library, computers, Internet access, and snack machines — which opened in 2000. Students are able to use the lab as their business address, to meet with venture capitalists, and to mingle with those entrepreneurs who run the companies housed in the Incubator.

Encouragement of student entrepreneurs includes the annual Rensselaer-Lucent Technologies $25,000 Student Business Plan Competition. One winner of the competition, ProductivityNet Inc., was founded in 1999 by two sophomores who went on to receive $250,000 in venture funding; the firm outgrew the Incubator and moved to downtown Troy in 2001.

When entrepreneurship pervades an institution, coursework, research, and commercialization all come into play. Here’s how it can work:

Information Technology major David Wiesel ’02 and classmate Yoon Hwan Kim ’03 devised a new “heads-up” display for an in-car global positioning system that projects navigational information on a vehicle’s windshield. Wiesel and Kim won a Laboratory Introduction to Embedded Control competition in the School of Engineering, which attracted the attention of Lester Gerhardt, associate dean of engineering. Gerhardt served as their Undergraduate Research Program adviser while the two worked to improve their concept. Wiesel and three classmates then created a business plan for the invention in a new degree-culminating capstone course. Gerhardt also helped the students prepare an invention disclosure to the Office of Technology Commercialization and an external grant application.

Intellectual Property and Technology Commercialization
The role of the Office of Technology Commercialization is to foster innovation and to support inventors and researchers through the commercialization process. Here, the Institute’s intellectual property policies are explained, invention disclosures are reviewed for commercial potential with the help of an assessment team, patent applications are filed, and commercial development plans are established.

The Rensselaer Plan makes growing new technological ventures and creating value through commercialization a high priority. Accordingly, activity in the Office of Technology Commercialization has increased dramatically. In fiscal year 2002, the office reported 70 invention disclosures — more than double the number in previous years — and nine commercialization deals, again about twice the previous volume.

People, Programs, Platforms

Front Page

Front Page

Rensselaer Magazine: December 2002
President's View Your Mail From the Archives Hawk Talk Class Notes Features
Front Page At Rensselaer Milestones
In Memoriam Making a Difference Staying Connected
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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in March, June, September, and December by the Office of Marketing and Media Relations.

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