Is the word “innovation” overused in business, or is it a reflection of a new reality? We hear that word, plus “innovate” and “innovation,” all the time. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal pointed out that innovation was used a remarkable 33,528 times in quarterly and annual reports last year; that within a 90-day period 255 book titles were published with that word in the title; and that 43 percent of companies surveyed have a chief innovation officer.
It seems that the frequency of the word can nullify, or at least undercut, its meaning and its impact. But while it can be overused, innovation is a word that, in its purist sense, describes an idea or product that changes the game. Given today’s super fast, hyper-competitive business world, all of us are looking for ways to reach new customers and create new market space and make a difference through innovations.
Higher education and business are no different, in that respect. It’s no coincidence that 28 percent of business schools use innovation and its variants in their mission statements. At Merrick—it is in our DNA.
This intense focus on innovation and creativity is becoming increasingly embedded into our academic programs. Our professors and students explore new pathways and new gateways that can lead to incredible opportunities for entrepreneurs, start-ups, and established companies large and small, high-tech and low-tech.
In this issue of The Merrick Exchange you will learn about innovation, the Merrick way. We’re introducing a new graduate program in innovation management, launching the undergraduate entrepreneurship fellows program featuring expert entrepreneurs as mentors and coaches and celebrating our new chapter of the Sigma Nu Tau honors society in entrepreneurship.
The new M.S. in Innovation Management and Technology Commercialization is designed to meet the demand of Maryland's STEM community by helping professionals transition from the laboratory to organizational management. As we all know, Maryland is home to some of the world's brightest minds in research and development, and while their talents are on display in the lab, guiding them in managing the business of innovation and technology commercialization is what we are determined to do via this program.
We believe that training the talent here in the state not only will provide an unbeatable workforce, but keep the dollars that are associated with commercializing technology at home in Maryland. With the numerous federal research sites, universities and tech- and health-based corporations, we are in a nationally recognized hotbed of discovery—and we are ready to be business partners with them. Our established lab-to-market program with NASA Goddard is just one example of how Merrick’s partnerships with the business community can yield commercially viable products.
And, when it comes to cultivating the budding entrepreneur, we infuse practical learning experiences with dozens of seasoned entrepreneurs. Whether it’s opportunities for our students to learn from Go Daddy founder Bob Parsons, B.S. ’75, or from the mentors in our Entrepreneurship Fellows program, our intent is clear: Merrick will augment the expertise of our faculty with the expertise of business leaders.
I can tell you that we’re having an impact. This month, 65 of our students were inducted into the charter class for the school’s new chapter of Sigma Nu Tau, the honor society for entrepreneurship. Right from the start, this class is the largest to be inducted into the society anywhere in the country. UB students with all kinds of interests are drawn to this kind of activity—it’s a great thing to witness and be a part of.
But as you know, in business and in life, you can’t rest on your laurels. The true innovators make sure they’re up and running, moving on to the next great evolution. So, at Merrick, innovation is not a buzzword or an overused word. We include it in our portfolio, and we think it and live it every day. You can call it our new normal.
I hope you enjoy this edition of The Merrick Exchange.
With UB pride,
Darlene Brannigan Smith, Ph.D.
Dean, Merrick School of Business
Alumna, B.S. '79, M.B.A. '80