October 18-20 | Tucson, AZ

The Research Institution GAP Fund and Accelerator Program Summit

Opinion: UConn innovation program key to job creation, graduate retention in the state

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

Entrepreneurship and innovation hold the keys to job creation, wealth creation and a bright economic future for Connecticut. The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a resurgence of millennials and other young people moving back to Connecticut. It is critical that we take advantage of this opportunity to grow the economy and secure our future. We believe that UConn is the linchpin in this effort.

Currently a bill sits in front of the state Legislature, SB 1099, “An Act Authorizing Bonds Of The State For A Research Faculty Recruitment And Hiring Program By The University Of Connecticut To Encourage The Creation Of New Business Ventures,” that would allow UConn to hire 10 new “innovation professors,” who would be specifically recruited for their track record of turning their research and discoveries into new technologies, products and companies. This innovative new program would encourage entrepreneurship among our faculty and their students, leading to new ventures, new patents, job creation and immeasurable opportunity. Such a visible commitment by the state and the university would further attract top-notch faculty and students, excited to become Huskies and take part in groundbreaking research and innovation.

It is not speculation that this approach works. Connecticut already has a demonstrated record of success. For example, UConn’s Technology Incubation Program with labs and offices in Farmington and Stamford, has incubated, helped to grow and supported over 50 start-up companies, all of which are strategically aligned with the technologies and industries that support Connecticut’s economy now and in the future.

These companies are on the cutting edge of advanced materials, medical devices, software, biotech and pharma. They have raised hundreds of millions of dollars, filed and issued hundreds of patents, created hundreds of jobs and will certainly be the source of thousands of the future jobs that will attract young people and others to Connecticut from throughout the United States.

Just a few of the many TIP companies that are raising money and creating Connecticut jobs include Rallybio, Azitra, Carogen, Shoreline Biome, LambdaVision and Torigen. In addition, as they grow, many TIP companies are supported by the state’s venture capital firm Connecticut Innovations. As the board chair of CI, I know that UConn generally, and TIP in particular, are fertile sources for creative and important Connecticut startups that will figure prominently in the future of a growing Connecticut economy.

State investment has been crucial to UConn’s growth and continued success. This spring, a record 38,000 students applied to UConn, nearly 2,000 more than applied this time last year. And this fall, the university welcomed its most diverse freshman class ever. We as a state must continue to build on this success. National benchmarking reveals that UConn’s current research faculty numbers are substantially smaller than our peers. An investment in 10 new “innovation professors” is exactly what is necessary to fill this gap and allow UConn to continue to be a key economic driver in the state.

We should all be immensely proud that 73 percent of UConn’s in-state graduates stay in Connecticut, going on to live, work and contribute to various communities across the state. Of the out-of-state student body, 22 percent stay here in Connecticut. Given the tremendous geographic diversity of the student body, nearly a quarter of out-of-state student retention is an impressive start. But we know the state can do more to attract and retain the next generation of talent.

It is this sort of innovative program that presents the opportunity for the state to make a high-yield investment in not just the future of UConn, but the future of Connecticut.

Source: Opinion: UConn innovation program key to job creation, graduate retention in the state

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