The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Where ideas can become a business venture
The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) is all-in on empowering Texas State University students — giving them the tools they need to launch new ideas and achieve the extraordinary.
The CIE is one of the university’s “Big Ideas” and is under the direction of Dr. Shannon Weigum, the College of Science and Engineering, and Daniel Roy, entrepreneur in residence at the McCoy College of Business. Roy is a former corporate banker with experience in several successful business startups. Weigum, an associate professor in the Department of Biology, is also on the faculty of Material Science, Engineering, and Commercialization (MSEC), and a former vice president of a San Marcos-based biological sciences company.
“The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship serves as a nexus of connectivity that can bring together people, resources, and entrepreneurial training opportunities to support all of the university community, including students, faculty, staff, and community partners. CIE will build the essential skills and resources that students need to start their own business, launch a new idea into the world, or develop a core entrepreneurial mindset,” Weigum said.
“We certainly take a broad view of the power of the center, not just to launch and support new companies, but more importantly, to impact students all across campuses, through the power of this entrepreneurial and innovative mindset,” Roy said. “In our current world, which is incredibly complex, we need thinkers and doers who can have a positive impact. We really need to anchor programming around developing that capability in our students, providing opportunities where the curriculum meets hands-on experiences.”
CIE has two core programs: Ignite and Deep Dive, which Roy called “foundational workshops to explore pathways for progression,” with students working in a team setting alongside experienced entrepreneurs, faculty and mentors to develop an idea they want to pursue.
Big Ideas TXST Virtual Week - CIE Live Interview Session
Ignite is a three-day virtual workshop for students interested in learning the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. These workshops are held once during each fall and spring semester, and once over the summer. Deep Dive is a follow-up to Ignite, for students with existing business concepts looking to move closer to launch by learning the startup process. Deep Dive workshops are free, virtual and open to all Texas State students. Like Ignite, workshops are held once a semester and students are mentored by faculty and experienced entrepreneurs.
Taylor Marks, a student in the M.B.A. program, learned about CIE attending a Women Entrepreneurship Founder Series. “I participated in Ignite: A Weekend of Entrepreneurship Discovery and had a fantastic time in what was a supportive, exciting and challenging think tank that allowed me to build relationships, understand how to strengthen my entrepreneurial perspective/skillset and lean-in to the iterative process of making a business dream a reality.
“It is incredibly clear that CIE is focused on creating access to these spaces and providing visibility/connection to folks who have been where we young entrepreneurs are — seeking to leave our mark through new businesses,” she said. Marks said she is in the operational phase of a business startup centered around helping undergrad/graduate students develop professional networks. She is the vice president of the Texas State chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs.
Other advanced entrepreneurship programs include NSF i-Corps and TXST New Ventures. Texas State’s node of the NSF i-Corps is for those with STEM-based ideas and has a three-week training session that will assist teams and potential company founders in determining if their innovative ideas can become a business venture by establishing a market need and fit. New Ventures begins with a pitch competition where teams compete for access to the New Ventures accelerator program, a network of mentors, for startup funding and space at STAR Park. The Science, Technology and Advanced Research Park is Texas State University's 58-acre research park dedicated to collaboration with industry, government laboratories and nonprofit research institutions to accelerate innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship in the Innovation Corridor.
For many universities, a resource like CIE might be accessible only to students of business or engineering. “CIE serves as an organizing entity to connect things across the campus that relate to innovation and entrepreneurship. And by connecting them, we create more visibility for them. And that visibility also helps to show where there are gaps. As a university level center, the CIE is now able to fill in those gaps with new programming and facilitate program alignment and foster collaboration among existing programs across all colleges at the university,” Weigum said.
Texas State wants all students to have access to this out of the box innovation. Recently, the university opened a Living-Learning community called Bobcat StartUp for first-year students across all majors and colleges with an interest in exploring entrepreneurship.“I think the living learning community is a great example of how we are working to increase access across the university,” Roy said. “Whether it's music, theater, or the sciences — entrepreneurs and innovators are everywhere. We really want to increase access to entrepreneurial programming and experiences for all members of the university and the community. I think that’s a great example of how you start.”
CIE will soon be releasing a virtual platform for students to access programs across what Weigum calls “our Ecosystem,” essentially the makeup of CIE. There are 40 elements that are part of the CIE ecosystem, both on campus and in the community. Weigum said the platform will also be a mentorship and peer network.
The CIE has a speaker series that will engage students and alumni. Weigum recently held a virtual gathering featuring women entrepreneurs. The goal, she said, is to “create an environment where we have open dialogue to listen and learn from each other, sharing their stories, hearing their voices, and certainly from people who look and reflect our student population.” Weigum added that the CIE is also there to support faculty with faculty-led innovations and potential tech transfer and commercialization efforts.
With the changes and renovations to the Alkek Library, the CIE will have its own space, called the IDEA Lab — Innovation Discovery Enterprise Acceleration — on the first floor adjacent to Alkek One’s MakerSpace. It will be a physical home for the CIE, Weigum said, and serve as a creative space for co-working and hosting workshops, competitions, one-on-on mentoring and other key CIE events.
Dr. Shannon Weigum discussed the CIE, the environment and mindset necessary to encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration with Big Ideas TXST podcast in June 2020.
Editor's note: all photos were taken before COVID-19 pandemic.