Spotlight on Rochester

Friday, February 5, 2016

This fall, more than 350 entrepreneurship experts from the United States and abroad will arrive in Rochester, N.Y., as the city showcases two universities’ entrepreneurial expertise and endeavors as well as dynamic growth, excellence in programming and the impact on the local community and beyond.

The 2016 Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers, or GCEC—co-hosted by University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology—will be held Sept. 29 through Oct. 1. The conference, themed “Turning Over a New Leaf,” features a variety of plenary sessions, workshops, breakout discussions and keynote speeches from national and international entrepreneurship experts as well as UR and RIT faculty and staff.

“This is great news for the Rochester region and I was proud to lend my support to the application,” said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY. “Rochester continues to lead the way in innovation and commercialization of new ideas, which this convention will spotlight. Bringing together the world’s leading stakeholders in the entrepreneurship education community will continue to highlight everything that the region has to offer and ensure a new generation will carry on Rochester’s high-tech legacy.”

Rochester, N.Y., is known worldwide as a technology hub. The area is nationally noted for patents per capita and its robust entrepreneurial environment.

“It’s no surprise that the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology were selected to host this global conference,” said U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-25th Distrct. “I congratulate them for the opportunity it will provide to showcase their entrepreneurial achievements. These two prestigious institutions are making incredible contributions to our region’s high tech economy and I’m proud to support their efforts. I have no doubt attendees will be impressed with Rochester and our world-class universities.”

According to Richard DeMartino, endowed chair and director of RIT’s Albert J. Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, hosting the conference attendees in Rochester is a nod to the city’s national standing in this area.

“Rochester has a rich history of innovation and it started 100 years ago with companies like Eastman Kodak, Xerox and Bausch & Lomb,” said DeMartino. “These organizations, in turn, helped in the creation of large universities, such as RIT and UR, and further helped foster economic development in the region. This conference, which provides tremendous visibility to our universities, is a reflection of the advancement of the region, and the partnership of RIT and UR leads to an approach that is complementary where strengths in technology, design and business meet research in optics and medicine.”

“As Rochester has changed from being dominated by a few companies to one with hundreds of high-tech companies, the role of Centers for Entrepreneurship has become ever more important,” said Duncan Moore, vice provost of entrepreneurship at the University of Rochester. “While this GCEC gathering will bring together center directors, staff, and faculty to discuss best practices in entrepreneurship education, one of the areas of focus will be how centers drive economic development.”

The University of Rochester Ain Center for Entrepreneurship defines entrepreneurship as generating and transforming ideas into enterprises that create value—economic or social. More than a discrete set of business skills or practices, entrepreneurship is a calling that can be pursued in many realms of experience and achievement. Launched in 2006 by a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and named in 2015 in recognition of Mark S. Ain ’67 (MBA) and his wife Carolyn for their visionary leadership and support of entrepreneurship education throughout the university, the Ain Center offers programs, competitions, events and services university-wide for students of all disciplines, faculty, staff, alumni and the greater Rochester community.

The Ain Center provides the following:

• Programs to enable aspiring entrepreneurs such as the UR Student Incubator at High Tech Rochester; the National Science Foundation Innovation-Corps Site program; mentorship from designated Entrepreneurs-in-Residence; the Ain Center Lecture Series featuring famous entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators; the Mark Ain Business Model Workshop Series; and events and speakers during Global Entrepreneurship Week and National Entrepreneurship Week;

• Access to funding and technology development through the Tech Development Fund run by UR Ventures, the office of technology transfer; the I-Corps Site program; the Simon School Venture Capital Fund, a $1 million fund overseen by graduate business students; and publicizing external grant, fellowship, accelerator and competition opportunities;

• Student business plan competitions such as the Mark Ain Business Model Competition, open to students university-wide from any discipline and at any level of study; the Charles and Janet Forbes Entrepreneurial Award, open to undergraduate engineering students; the Eastman New Venture Challenge, open to music students; the intercollegiate Finger Lakes Regional Contest where winners in six categories advance to the statewide New York Business Plan Competition; and the Tibetan Innovation Challenge, a global intercollegiate social entrepreneurship competition to develop self-sustaining and replicable business ideas that improve the lives of Tibetan refugees;

• Support of Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year Scholars: a signature program that offers selected students a fifth, tuition-free year of college to launch an enterprise or intern at a startup;

• Undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship courses offered through the Simon Business School;

• Support of entrepreneurship faculty and staff through monthly luncheons covering designated topics and regional summits to discuss best practices in entrepreneurship;

• Advising and support of student-run entrepreneurship organizations such as SPARK Entrepreneurs (undergraduates), UR Consulting Group (an undergraduate consulting firm offering pro-bono services to startups and non-profits), and the Simon Entrepreneurs Association (graduate business students);

• Administration of the Master of Science in Technical Entrepreneurship and Management program, an interdisciplinary graduate degree designed for engineers.

RIT’s Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship, established in 2007, is widely recognized as a national leader in multidisciplinary and experiential education in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship. The center—created to help students studying in all disciplines learn as they advance and realize their own ideas and projects—works in partnership with RIT’s Venture Creations business incubator.

The center provides students with:

• Innovation and commercialization coaches

• Access to funding for early-stage innovation projects through competitions such as Tiger Tank, where students can pitch ideas to expert judges; Finger Lakes Regional Business Plan Competition, Student Innovation Challenge, and Business Model Competition;

• Access to workspace such as Student Innovation Hall, Entrepreneurship Center Office and The Construct, a student-run makerspace;

• Workshops and programs for idea generation and prototype development such as RIT IdeaLab, a weekend-long event where problems and challenges are linked with student problem solvers; Saunders Start-up, an intense program aimed at developing business concepts and seeking financial investors; NSF I-Corps Program funding to assist students commercialize ideas; and Studio 9.30 RIT Design Consultancy, a multidisciplinary studio focused on the production of access and health technologies products;

• Designated entrepreneurship courses through Saunders College of Business and School of Individualized Study; and

• Co-op credit for students working full time on their innovation projects.

“What you’ll see from RIT is a very applied entrepreneurship program where technologists, designers and business students unite to advance both the business concept and the product development concept,” added DeMartino.

The GCEC, the premier academic organization addressing the emerging topics of importance to the nation’s university-based centers for entrepreneurship, allows universities to network, benchmark and explore how to best promote entrepreneurship education and new venture creation. It has become the vehicle by which the top, established entrepreneurship centers, as well as emerging centers, can work together to share best practices, develop programs and initiatives, and collaborate and assist each other in advancing, strengthening and celebrating the role of universities in teaching the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

The GCEC current membership totals more than 225 university-based entrepreneurship centers ranging in age from well established and nationally ranked to new and emerging centers. Each year a global conference is held on the campus of a GCEC member school.

For more information about the conference at UR/RIT and to watch a video, go to