Pitt Innovation Institute announces Big Idea Center

The University Innovation Institute announced Thursday it will establish a Big Idea Center set to open for the 2018-2019 academic year.

The announcement was part of last week’s annual Randall Family Big Idea Competition, where three current and former Pitt students won $25,000 to develop their automated tomato harvesting project.

A $2 million gift from Pitt ‘65 alumnus and trustee Bob Randall and his family will make the center possible this fall. Randall said providing students with the tools to pursue their own interests and discoveries professionally before they graduate is crucial for their long-term career success.

“Equipping Pitt students with entrepreneurial skills and mind-set is critical to preparing them for success in the real world, whether they intend to launch their own enterprise or lead innovation initiatives inside a larger organization,” Randall said.

According to a release issued by the University Friday, the center will open at the Gardner Steel Conference Center on campus and be available to Pitt students of all levels as a supplemental resource to the services offered by the Innovation Institute. It will form more connections with schools and organizations on campus, as well as other regional entrepreneurial opportunities.

Pitt’s Innovation Institute was established in 2013 to aid student innovators and support entrepreneurship at the University. It offers students services regarding intellectual property rights, commercializing their discoveries and providing mentoring and networking opportunities.

Interim Director of the Innovation Institute, Evan Facher, said the institute has seen an increased interest in entrepreneurship among students and that the center can enhance these resources and support more students in their entrepreneurial work.

“We look forward to providing even more students the skills and confidence to bring their ideas to life through the Big Idea Center,” Facher said.

The release also outlined the five “focus areas” of the center, which will include education, events and competitions, funding, opportunity acceleration and mentorship. Through these elements, the center will also promote key national and international competitions, such as the ACC InVenture Prize and the Rice Business Plan Competition, and connect students to Pitt’s Entrepreneurs in Residence.

Randall said he is excited to launch the center and further establish innovation in Pitt’s educational program.

“I am thrilled that Pitt’s leadership recognizes the value of weaving entrepreneurship education into the fabric of the University.”

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