Students Central to Innovation

Henry Etzkowitz initiated the concept of the Triple Helix partnership in the 1990s, understanding the university’s forte in knowledge production could result in entrepreneurial output. The concept is that “innovation and economic development lies in a more prominent role for the university in partnering with industry and government to generate new institutional and social formats for the production, transfer and application of knowledge.” In this scenario: 1) university acts like an entrepreneur, focusing on commercialization of their research; 2) industry acts like a university, partnering on research development, loosening their protective, private sector boundaries; and 3) government becomes the venture capitalist, providing an infusion of financial resources into the equation. It is an ideal ecosystem in which the university drives innovation, and has the established relationships and financial backing to bring their research to life.

Do you know why Etzkowitz pronounced the university is more innovative than any type of organization that produces knowledge? Answer: pipeline of students. Unlike any other business, fresh talent is constantly flowing into the university system, contributing new ideas, diverse perspectives, and, therefore, unlimited creativity. Southwest Ohio is fortunate with over 20 colleges and universities and more than 120,000 students. Also, we have the perfect makings for the Triple Helix partnership: 1) strong higher education cluster; 2) strong government presence with WPAFB; and 3) major business interested in technological innovation. Most importantly, we have the curricular ability to marrying the sciences, arts, and humanities with the passion of our college and university students–which is truly the key to innovation.

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