New era at Center for Innovation

Revamped mission offers path to stronger collaborations with campus, students and business community

Center for Innovation

Under a revised plan, the Center for Innovation will have a set of new service lines focused on student experiential learning and internships, as well as support for entrepreneurs and new business ventures in the form of space, business planning, research support, mentorship, relationship building and more.

The Center for Innovation Foundation Board has announced plans for a new future for the Center.

As of Oct. 4, the board voted to finalize a new mission as follows:

“The Center for Innovation at the University of North Dakota equips students, entrepreneurs and innovative business ventures with the knowledge, skills, credentials, resources and ethical foundation to go forth and serve as leaders in action throughout the business community.”

“We had a chance to really evaluate what would move the Center into the arena of today – what students are looking for, and what businesses, innovators and new companies are looking for,” new Foundation Board member Ed Schafer said.

The Center will carry out this new mission with a set of new service lines focused on student experiential learning and internships, as well as support for entrepreneurs and new business ventures in the form of space, business planning, research support, mentorship, relationship building and more.

“This mission recognizes that there’s a great opportunity to work more closely with the University in supporting not only students, but also researchers, entrepreneurs, innovators and business ventures,” said interim Center Director Laurie Betting. “This is an exciting step toward that.”

Board’s vision

Dale Morrison

UND Foundation Chair Dale Morrison

Betting credits the forward-leaning thinkers of the Center for Innovation Foundation Board for the establishment of a roadmap that will build upon UND’s recent U.S. News and World Report’s ranking as one of the country’s Top 25 Most Innovative Schools.

“These are business leaders and entrepreneurs that have, by the very essence of their service on this Board, modeled their philanthropic generosity and have already proven that they’re invested in helping entrepreneurs and students,” she said.

Foundation Board Chair Dale Morrison said the new mission creates a bridge between a sterling past and an even brighter tomorrow. “The Center is renowned for its history of serving entrepreneurs and students, but this will springboard us into a future that has the potential to impact more student lives in deeper ways, as well as the business community,” he said.

“We understand the joint value of the Center,” said Foundation Board Member Phil Gisi. “We see the value for students, with experiential learning, but also the value given back to established businesses that are looking at expanding their lines of business. We can now use the research capability of the University to drive that purpose forward.”

Board Treasurer Chuck Ahearn was an associate of James C. Ray, who generously gave more than $25 million to UND’s entrepreneurship and aviation programs before his death earlier this year. Ahearn says the Center and UND truly embrace dreamers, which was one reason James Ray was attracted to the University.

“I’m excited about the new vision and concrete steps the Center is taking to provide the support and encouragement to launch individuals and businesses. Ray would be proud of the new foundation we’re building,” Ahearn said.

Strategy for the future

Ed Schafer

Ed Schafer

Schafer and UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo will co-chair a search for a new Center director, to be initiated in the weeks to come.

In the meantime, entrepreneur and strategic consultant Barry Horwitz has been tapped to serve as interim director for the Center when Betting retires from the post later this month. Horwitz brings a strong background of both assisting with startups and working with academic innovation centers.

Tom DiLorenzo

UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo

“I had the pleasure of working with Barry Horwitz on the front end development of the One UND Strategic Plan,” Betting said. “He’s going to take the new mission and service lines and really start to fine-tune their implementation. He’ll talk with Center staff, campus faculty and administrators, and the business community to take this plan to the next stage.”

Della Kapocius, currently a grant writer for the Center and the UND College of Business and Public Administration, will offer day-to-day operational support to complement Horwitz’s work.

As approved last week by the Center for Innovation Foundation Board and the UND Alumni Association & Foundation (AA&F) Board, the fundraising operations of the Center will move into the AA&F on Jan. 1, where Center for Innovation endowments are currently managed.

Also starting Jan. 1, the Center will report in the interim directly to UND President Mark Kennedy at the request of the board.

“This is an important time in the history of the Center and UND,” President Kennedy said. “The University has renewed and enriched its commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship as laid out in the One UND Strategic Plan, and we will work closely with the Center to attain those goals.”

The Foundation Board voted to allow current independent contracts to expire and to explore fulfilling any remaining needs with employed staff.

“Our plan will unfold in a way that fits into the University better and that continues to respond to the needs of the marketplace and the community,” Schafer said. “It will unfold in ways that we can’t even see today. But we have our mission, and now we start down that path. We’re innovating the Center for Innovation.”