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Colleges and Communities Find New Ways to Collaborate for Economic Growth

This article was originally published on the U.S.SourceLink blog which features thoughts from the U.S.SourceLink team, as well as those of their affiliate networks across the country. U.S.SourceLink is a UEDA member. The original posting is available here.

by: Jeremy Hegle

USSLBlogImageHow do leading-edge universities and their communities support entrepreneurs, students and inventors to create products and start businesses? Arizona State University (ASU) may have an answer.

ASU was recognized recently by the University Economic Development Association (UEDA) for their “Community Connected Campus” projects. UEDA gives an annual award to colleges and universities who develop quality, connected campuses that become entrepreneurial hotspots and magnets for new people and businesses.

Bringing the Maker Movement to Higher Education

The ASU Chandler Innovation Center is a 35,000-square-foot space outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment, software and tools provided through TechShop, an all access workshop for innovators that connects the Maker Movement with STEM education. ASU is the first university in the country to partner with TechShop, a collaboration that provides a model for other higher education institutions in support of the maker movement.

Why the partnership? Mitzi Montoya, ASU’s vice president and dean of entrepreneurship and innovation, explained that it was quicker and cheaper to outsource the center to TechShop, especially considering the price tag: it would cost upwards of $1 million in equipment plus build out of the space.

ASU entered into a long-term lease with the City of Chandler on the city’s former public works yard at the rate of $1.00 per year. ASU then subleased the property to TechShop for a $1.00 per year on shorter lease terms. ASU pays for the center the same way it would pay for a library, out of student fees, and views the center as a library model of the future.

Anyone can obtain a membership at the Innovation Center, which averages at $117 a month for a one-year membership, or $175 for a non-reoccurring one-month membership. Students at ASU receive free memberships. Currently the Innovation Center has 200 student memberships and 700 non-student members.

All members receive access to workspace and tools (welding stations, plasma cutters, hand tools and 3D printers). Workshops and events are also available with topics ranging from welding, rapid prototyping, electronics, autodesk and textiles. Student members receive vouchers for workshops and the School of Engineering teaches classes at the Center as well.

“The center will cement Chandler’s reputation as a high-tech center of industry and will provide students and local companies with the opportunity to collaborate on new technologies under one roof,” said Mayor Jay Tibshraeny. “The new site will bring new energy to the downtown with students working virtually around the clock on projects.”

The ASU Chandler Innovation Center was a finalist for UEDA’s 2014 Excellence for Community Connected Campus Award.

View their presentation “How to Bring the Maker Movement to Higher Education” on SlideShare.

Co-Working Network

With the Alexandria Co-Working Network, ASU is partnering with libraries around the state to open free collaborative workspaces to bring together inventors, problem solvers, entrepreneurs and small businesses.

ASU actively engages with each library location by setting up mentor office hours, holding entrepreneurial classes under ASU’s Rapid Startup School program and providing marketing material for the libraries to promote their location. ASU then connects libraries to rest of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, helping build connections between entrepreneurs and other existing resources and programs.

Originally designed with ASU staff onsite, the network began to grow to other libraries across the metro area, making it necessary to move to a “train-the-trainer” model. Library staff are trained to act as champions for the entrepreneurs, offering information resources (SCORE, SBDC, etc.) for more specific business development expertise.

So far more than 6,000 people have benefited from attending events and/or one-on-one assistance at the co-working spaces. Additionally, ASU found that working with the libraries allowed them to reach entrepreneurs who normally wouldn’t turn to a university for assistance in starting or growing a business.

The network began in May of 2013 and is named after the ancient Egyptian library established in the third century BC. That library wasn’t just about books, it was a place where people came together to share ideas and knowledge. It is a unique, innovative approach to aligning the strengths of complementary organizations (universities and libraries) to support entrepreneurship. When viewed in this light the value of partnership becomes clear.

The Alexandria Co-Working Network was the winner of UEDA’s 2014 Excellence for Community Connected Campus Award.

View their presentation “How to Redesign Libraries and Museums for the 21st Century” on SlideShare.

Jeremy Hegle is Senior Director of Programs for U.S.SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs.

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