Project Olympus Partners with the Don Jones Center Boosting Entrepreneurship Efforts at Carnegie Mellon

Lenore Blum
BY Byron Spice - Thu, 2013-03-14 10:03  Printer-friendly version

Initiatives Will Combine Strengths in New Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University is bolstering its leadership in turning university research and ideas into commercial enterprises by establishing the Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), which merges the strengths of Project Olympus and the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship.

The new CIE will be led jointly by Lenore Blum, founding director of Project Olympus and professor of computer science, and Dave Mawhinney, executive director of the Don Jones Center and assistant teaching professor of entrepreneurship. The CIE has three goals: 1) defining CMU as the "destination of choice" for individuals interested in entrepreneurship; 2) fostering an "inside-out" approach of creating winning commercial ventures from cutting-edge research; and 3) developing an extensive, vibrant network of alumni entrepreneurs.

"The Don Jones Center and Project Olympus have been tremendously successful in helping students and faculty take the crucial first steps in transforming research findings into products and services that people want to buy," said Mark S. Kamlet, CMU provost and executive vice president and head of the new center's governing body. "We are excited that the partnership between technology and business as embodied by the new center will create the same synergies we see when our faculty members reach across disciplines — and propel our university, and region, into the entrepreneurial forefront."

With financial support from the McCune Foundation's Big Idea program, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will continue the successful programs of the Don Jones Center and Project Olympus, including seasonal Show & Tell events that connect campus researchers with local and national investors, the Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund, incubator space for fledgling companies, entrepreneurship workshops and business competitions, such as the McGinnis Venture Competition.

New this year is Launch CMU, events that will bring top-tier venture capitalists together with the university's most promising researchers and entrepreneurs twice a year. Launch CMU events will alternate between the Pittsburgh campus and Silicon Valley, with the first scheduled for May 21 at Intel Corp. headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif.

"We also will be establishing an Alumni Entrepreneurial Network, tapping our many alumni who have started or who are leading successful startups," Mawhinney said. "Our alumni can provide priceless guidance to the next generation of entrepreneurs and we will be nurturing those connections in every way we can."

Other new initiatives include undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships designed to foster entrepreneurial efforts.

"We want Carnegie Mellon to be the destination of choice for students and faculty who are interested in entrepreneurship," Blum said. "The knowledge and skills necessary to start a business don't come naturally, regardless of how gifted a person might be in their chosen discipline. The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship provides the missing pieces, benefiting not only our faculty and students, but the entire region."

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is part of Carnegie Mellon's Greenlighting Startups initiative, which employs the university's "inside-out" approach to speed advances from the lab to the marketplace. More than 300 businesses have been launched from Carnegie Mellon in the last 15 years, thanks in part to its innovative tech-transfer process that ensures no university interference with startup operations.

The Tepper School of Business, home to the Don Jones Center, was one of the first business schools to offer formal entrepreneurship training. The Don Jones Center has a long history of bringing students, faculty and practitioners together with groundbreaking research from across campus. Since its founding in the School of Computer Science six years ago, Project Olympus has provided help to more than 100 student and faculty teams across campus that sought to turn research and great ideas into commercial services and products. To date, 70 of those efforts — 54 initiated by students and 16 by faculty — have spawned companies.

As with its partner programs, CIE is an engine for accelerating innovation and job creation. The CIE builds upon the university's impressive record of turning campus innovations into new businesses by supporting award-winning professors and world-class students in transforming their research into thriving commercial enterprises.

More on this story: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 | bspice [atsymbol] cs.cmu.edu