The Sustainable University: Student Innovators and Entrepreneurs Wanted

RIT & National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance to host workshop Jan. 4-8

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University campuses across the country have large-scale operations and large ecological footprints. But they also have a large pool of potential problem solvers—their students.

Rochester Institute of Technology and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance are collaborating to create a program that could turn college students around the world into entrepreneurs and world savers.

RIT will host the Sustainable University IdeaLab workshop Jan. 4-8 to help students identify money- and energy-saving opportunities on campus, prototype and develop business cases based on the students’ ideas, and in some instances develop them into real commercial enterprises.

Funded by RIT, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and corporate sponsors, the program will provide student teams that come up with the best ideas with seed grants up to $1,000.

“We are looking for potential entrepreneurs, problem seekers and innovators who are passionate about addressing critical sustainability issues on the RIT campus,” says Jon Schull of RIT’s Center for Student Innovation.

During the course of the five-day workshop, students will learn how to develop and commercialize products and innovations that promote and support productive and environmentally sustainable universities.

The cost per student is $100. The deadline application is Nov. 2. To apply, go to The IdeaLab is designed to help students form teams and develop new ideas focused specifically about sustainability.

Adds James Barlow, National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance’s head of outreach: “This idea was brought to us by RIT’s Center for Student Innovation and has generated tremendous interest at universities around the country. We are excited to be developing it with RIT and expect to be able to replicate it elsewhere.”

The event is sponsored by RIT’s Center for Student Innovation, the Office of the President and the Golisano Institute for Sustainability.

The alliance also awards ETeam grants to students who have well-established teams and commercializable ideas. The Center for Student Innovation will hold informational sessions for students interested in applying for ETeam grants or the IdeaLab workshop from 5-6 p.m. Oct. 19 and Oct. 26.

“The IdeaLab for students is just another example of RIT’s commitment to advancing sustainability,” says Enid Cardinal, RIT’s senior sustainability adviser. “We are excited to be working with the NCIIA on this workshop and other initiatives to help our students advance their ideas and solve ongoing societal and environmental challenges.”

RIT is also one of the more than 600 universities and colleges to participate in the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. RIT President Bill Destler signed the commitment in 2009, which provides support and a framework for America’s colleges and universities to go climate neutral. Particular emphasis is placed on neutralizing greenhouse gas emissions while accelerating research and educational programs.

For further information about the IdeaLab workshop, go to For more information about the Innovation Center and its programs, contact Jon Schull at