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Wichita State University John Tomblin: WSU focusing on future through Innovation Campus

  • Published Saturday, March 1, 2014, at 9:45 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, May 27, 2014, at 9:28 a.m.

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Wichita has been a hub for manufacturing, entrepreneurship and innovation for the past 100 years.

The spirit of innovation is something that is inherent in our culture and has been passed through generations. But questions often arise about the future of our region’s competitiveness.

Changes in manufacturing technologies are threatening to significantly affect the manufacturing and high technology jobs that have fueled the state’s economy for decades, even in Wichita’s most important industry – aircraft and airframe manufacturing.

While nobody knows what knowledge will be needed 50 years from now, we do know that the creation of new knowledge and ideas is crucial to improving the future economic well-being of Kansans. It is the successful translation of new knowledge and ideas into society that improves our lives, makes us more productive and creates new jobs.

Our future quality of life is inextricably linked to innovation and entrepreneurship.

Our mission at Wichita State University is to be an essential educational, cultural and economic driver for Kansas and the greater public good. In the face of a changing social and economic landscape, we believe this can be accomplished by fostering innovation and new technology at Wichita State.

For the first time in its history, the university has dedicated an office to technology transfer, focusing on identifying opportunities for invention disclosures, research and license agreements, start-up companies and patent applications. We have already seen a 300 percent increase in invention disclosures from university faculty and staff over the past 12 months.

At Wichita State, we’re laying groundwork for an innovation explosion, and at the heart of our strategy is a new Innovation Campus. More commonly referred to as a “research park,” this center will co-locate businesses, university researchers, students and supporting organizations with a common goal of translating ideas into new products and services. Benefits include economic diversification, partnerships among businesses and university researchers, experiential learning opportunities for students, and the spawning and growth of new companies.

According to a recent report by Batelle, there are more than 100 university research parks across the United States and Canada, and they have resulted in 963 start-up companies in just the past five years. The success rate of these start-up companies is 81 percent – a 31 percent increase over national statistics. These research parks have significantly improved the economic competitiveness of their regions, generating employment and making existing companies more competitive.

Wichita State’s Innovation Campus will give students the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in their field of study by working directly with businesses located there, acquiring the skills and mindset most needed by industry. We know this strategy is key because we’ve already seen it work through Wichita State’s cooperative education program and the university’s industry-focused research centers, such as the National Institute for Aviation Research and Advanced Networking Research Institute.

The Innovation Campus will house early-stage entrepreneurial university spin-out companies and existing technology-based businesses. It will have room for businesses and new research programs to grow, and it will be a place where entrepreneurial faculty and students can explore and pursue the commercialization of their ideas and technologies. It will be a catalyst for innovation; a place where technology and business meet.

Wichita’s existing talent, education, workforce and entrepreneurial spirit have made this community a great place to live and work. And now, Wichita State’s Innovation Campus will help Kansas compete in the global marketplace by uniting researchers, businesses and entrepreneurs. Their innovations will improve our lives, educate our young people, and contribute to economic diversification and job creation.

Through its Innovation Campus, Wichita State is focusing on the future and the greater good for Kansas.

John Tomblin is vice president for Research and Technology Transfer at Wichita State University. To learn more about WSU, go to www.wichita.edu.

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