Engineers have certain characteristics that provide a strong foundation as innovators and entrepreneurs:
- Engineers are analytical problem solvers, creating practical solutions from new ideas. Engineers translate discovery into practice.
- Engineers attack the world’s most daunting problems requiring cross-disciplinary solutions. Per the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges, these include making solar energy economical, providing energy from fusion, developing carbon sequestration methods, managing the nitrogen cycle, providing access to clean water, restoring and improving urban infrastructure, advancing health informatics, engineering better medicines, reverse-engineering the brain, preventing nuclear terror, securing cyberspace, enhancing virtual reality, advancing personalized learning, and engineering the tools of scientific discovery.
- Engineers are entrepreneurial leaders; technology company founders with engineering degrees, and more generally technology disciplinary training, have proven their mettle as successful entrepreneurs.
At the same time, engineers face substantial challenges in transitioning to the world of innovation champions (entrepreneurs and “intrapreneurs”) such as:
- An engineering education is typically focused on technical depth at the expense of breadth in fields such as business practice, accounting and finance, operations management, and the other skills necessary to succeed as an entrepreneur
- An engineering education typically does not provide sufficient opportunities to lead teams, communicate ideas, understand and exercise real world ethics in challenging situations, and other “real-world” dilemmas faced by innovators
- Comprehensive: one of the largest colleges of engineering in the US with ~8,300 students and virtually every major engineering discipline represented.
- Interdisciplinary: the college’s strategic plan, of which the Innovation Institute is a key component, focuses on discovery and innovation at the intersection of traditional technology disciplines.
- Collaborative: the University of Florida is a national technology commercialization leader and one of the largest in the country in terms of size and number of disciplines. UF is one of the very few major research universities in the country that includes strong colleges of engineering, medicine, food and agricultural sciences, liberal arts and science, and business, along with a host of other units that provide a one of a kind collaborative environment. Innovation is happening at the intersection of technology disciplines and UF provides an innovative ecosystem in which the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering can flourish.
The Engineering Innovation Institute programs are desiged to address gaps in our the national engineering education and research agenda and reach across the spectrum of discovery to tranlation of innovative research and students into the marketplace.