Articles tagged as: innovation

August 29, 2014

UT, Texas A&M, Rice Form NSF Hub to Move Ideas to Marketplace

The University of Texas at Austin, Rice University and Texas A&M University have received a three-year, $3.75 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to become a regional innovation hub that translates academic research into useful technologies with commercial applications.

The NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program has designated three Texas tier-one research universities as the Southwest Alliance for Entrepreneurial Innovation Node, charged with empowering teams of university scientists and industry experts to develop life-changing products. NSF supports all fields of fundamental science and engineering, as well as research into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The I-Corps program encourages scientists and engineers to consider how their federally funded, fundamental research projects may become commercial ventures.

“The I-Corps program is no doubt one of the nation’s signature programs for promoting entrepreneurship and startup creation, and we are, of course, honored by the designation,” said Juan Sanchez, vice president for research at UT Austin, which is the lead partner in the node. “Having an I-Corps Node established in Texas represents a unique opportunity for researchers and institutions across the state and region to leverage existing research efforts into new business initiatives that will benefit society at large.”

The node offers potential partnerships with 33 institutions in the southwest region representing more than $600 million of NSF funding in fields such as bioscience, K-12 education, materials energy research, geosciences, engineering, psychology, oil and gas, water filtration and entrepreneurism.

Dick Lester

Richard Lester, executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) at Mays Business School

“NSF looks for broader impacts, so involving schools in our system and region is a way to broaden and advance the I-Corps initiative,” said Richard Lester, executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. “One of our far-reaching goals is to teach this process to other universities in the region.”

To participate, three-person teams composed of an NSF-funded researcher, a business mentor and a graduate student (known as the entrepreneurial lead) apply to the I-Corps Team program. If accepted, the team is entitled to a six-month, $50,000 grant from the NSF focused on exploring the commercialization of fundamental research ideas. The team will also attend official NSF I-Corps training at one of the National I-Corps Nodes.

Nodes, such as the one being created with the three Texas universities, then facilitate an innovation-enhancing training program for the teams and offer support during the process of moving valuable ideas beyond the lab.

“Universities are the birthplace of new ideas and epicenter of life-changing research,” said Brad Burke, managing director for the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship.

“This new NSF I-Corps initiative is a paradigm shift that will facilitate a cultural change in universities and research centers designed to take researchers’ creativity and innovation to the commercial level. It will be a driver for higher education and university research to become much more entrepreneurial.”

Training begins with a three-day introductory workshop at an I-Corps Node and continues for about six weeks with weekly virtual team presentations and updates with National Node faculty members. Training ends with an in-person, two-day session to evaluate lessons learned and next steps. UT Austin will host the region’s first national cohort in October. The NSF I-Corps curriculum is derived from Stanford University’s Lean LaunchPad course that teaches students effective startup methods and technology commercialization.


Texas A&M offers students a bevy of programs and opportunities to grow their entrepreneurial spirit, including Startup Aggieland, an on-campus business accelerator.

Other regional I-Corps Nodes across the country are located in the Bay Area/Silicon Valley, the D.C./Maryland/Virginia region, southern California, New York City, Georgia and Michigan. The Southwest Alliance for Entrepreneurial Innovation Node will be the first node in the southwest/midcontinent region of the country.

The application for the node was a multiuniversity effort involving each of the three Texas schools. Key personnel at the universities include: Rice University’s Brad Burke, managing director for the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, and George McLendon, Howard H. Hughes Provost and professor of chemistry and biochemistry and cell biology; Texas A&M University’s Richard Lester, clinical associate professor and executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, and Valerie Taylor, senior associate dean for academic affairs and the Royce E. Wisenbaker Professor; UT Austin’s Robert Peterson, associate vice president for research, and Juan Sanchez, vice president for research. The NSF grant for the Southwest Alliance for Entrepreneurial Innovation Node is No. 1444045 and can be viewed here.

Adding to Campus Initiatives

The NSF I-Corps program will build innovation programs already advancing breakthroughs at the three Texas institutions.

The University of Texas at Austin IC2 Institute fosters economic development locally and internationally through collaborations among the university, government and private sectors with programs such as the Austin Technology Incubator and the Global Commercialization Group. The Texas Advanced Computing Center’s high-performance computing tools accelerate research, and the Office of Industry Engagement works closely with the Office of Technology Commercialization to ensure fast and successful transfers of university discoveries to the marketplace.

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship is Rice University’s globally recognized initiative devoted to the support of technology commercialization, entrepreneurial education and the launch of technology companies. Programs include the Rice Business Plan Competition for global student startups that awarded nearly $3 million in prizes in 2014; OwlSpark, a student startup accelerator; and three flagship technology venture capital forums in the areas of energy and clean technology, life science and information technology.

The CNVE, part of Mays’ Department of Management, is the hub of entrepreneurship across Texas A&M University. Last year, the center reached about 3,500 students. Startup Aggieland is a business incubator providing space for all Texas A&M students to apply classroom knowledge and explore entrepreneurship with assistance from faculty members, administrators, peers and mentors. The CNVE also hosts such efforts as the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, the MBA Venture Challenge competition for graduate students, the Start-Up 101 workshop series, and the campus-wide Ideas Challenge.



Media contact: Richard Lester, Mays Business School at Texas A&M University; 979.862.7091,

February 24, 2014

School of Law Summit Focuses On Intersection Of Law and Entrepreneurship

Texas A&M University School of Law will explore the role of higher education in nurturing future innovators and entrepreneurs, and how law firms can support this endeavor, on Friday (Feb. 28) at the “CLIP Innovation Summit: Shaping the Future of Law & Entrepreneurship.”

The CLIP (Center for Law and Intellectual Property) summit, in partnership with Startup Aggieland, will feature speakers from across the nation who will lead discussions about creative approaches to cultivating entrepreneurship in the university setting through an “education evolution” involving experiential learning and programs for entrepreneurs.

The keynote speaker will be John Schiller, chairman and CEO of Energy XXI, an oil and gas company based in Houston. Schiller graduated from Texas A&M’s flagship campus in College Station in 1981 with a degree in petroleum engineering and was inducted into the Texas A&M University Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering’s Academy of Distinguished Graduates in 2008. He founded Energy XXI in 2005 and his career in the oil and gas industry spans more than 30 years.

Summit topics will include: encouraging entrepreneurship from idea to launch; universities as rocket fuel for entrepreneurs; programs for early-stage concepts and innovations; law firm models to support entrepreneurship; incubator programs for entrepreneurs at all stages; and working remotely with entrepreneurs and lawyers.

The summit will begin at 8 a.m. at the law school in Fort Worth. For more information or to register, click here.

About Texas A&M University School of Law: At Texas A&M University School of Law, academic excellence, leadership and service are the keys to student success. Fully accredited by the American Bar Association, the law school is committed to providing students with the strong theoretical foundation and practical lawyering skills necessary to traverse the dynamic legal landscape of the 21st century. The law school pursues its mission of excellence through outstanding teaching and scholarship, innovative academic and experiential learning programs, and a commitment to public service and community outreach. Ideally situated in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, one of the fastest growing economies in the U.S., and home to one of the nation’s highest concentrations of corporate headquarters, students and graduates have incredible opportunities for professional advancement and mentorship.


Media contact: Regan Gilstrap, assistant director of External Affairs; 817-212-3932

December 17, 2013

Past US-Russia Partnership Can Serve As Model In Eliminating Syria’s WMDs, Says Texas A&M Prof

The partnership between the U.S. and Russia to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal is promising, says a Texas A&M University national security professor. History, however, shows that strong international leadership, interagency collaboration and Congressional oversight are key for the plans to work.

After the Cold War, thousands of “loose nukes” remained in the former Soviet Union. Joint efforts between the U.S. and Russia to eliminate them were very successful, says Joseph Cerami, a senior lecturer at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service. The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, named for Senators Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) who sponsored the 1992 initiative during the George H.W. Bush Administration, were designed to secure and dismantle WMDs in the former Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Joseph Cerami

Joseph Cerami

“The Nunn-Lugar programs were, and continue to be, effective because they were cooperative U.S.-Russian efforts, with strong U.S. executive, bureaucratic and Congressional leadership,” says Cerami, who specializes in policymaking and leadership studies. “In particular, if you want an effective U.S. policy over the long run, you have to have Congress involved. Also William Perry, Clinton’s secretary of defense, was very effective and fully engaged; he took numerous trips to the former Soviet Union to oversee implementing the policies.”

In Cerami’s book “Leadership and Policy Innovation – From Clinton to Bush: Countering the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction,” he studied the policy effectiveness of the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and their Secretaries of Defense, in providing innovative policies for countering nuclear WMD proliferation. In addition to analyzing Nunn-Lugar, Cerami examined two other counterproliferation programs: the 1994 U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework and U.S.-U.N efforts in Iraq after the First Persian Gulf War.

Cerami argues that where Nunn-Lugar succeeded, efforts in Iraq and North Korea mostly failed. “Under Nunn-Lugar, the role of engaged congressional leadership and oversight is more pronounced than in either the Agreed Framework or the Iraq case,” he writes in the book.

Under the Agreed Framework, North Korea pledged to dismantle their nuclear reactor that was suspected of being part of a covert nuclear weapons program. In exchange, the U.S., South Korea, Japan and others were to build two “light water,” proliferation-resistant, nuclear power reactors.

“The negotiations were a success,” Cerami says, “and the diplomats involved worked effectively in producing the agreement. There were good intentions and a “framework,” but no effective follow-up. No one rose up within the U.S. Senate or Department of Defense to champion the efforts. You have to have champions for major policy implementation, such as Perry, Lugar and Nunn.”

He says North Korea did put one reactor out of action as agreed, but, “they had a separate program they didn’t tell us about. We know now that they have enough nuclear material to make bombs, but not the delivery capability. Nevertheless, North Korea is the most unpredictable regime on the planet.” He contends the framework would have been helped by stronger inspection efforts as well as more engaged administration officials, diplomats and Congress members to continue negotiations and strengthen the agreement over time. He adds that since the framework collapsed, there has been no progress in halting North Korea’s nuclear weapons and long-range missile development.

Cerami’s third case study involved counterproliferation efforts in Iraq after the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991) during the Clinton Administration and continuing into George W. Bush’s first term, which resulted in the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, but failed to uncover any nuclear WMDs.

The professor says two U.N. inspection teams looked for WMDs in Iraq, the first led by Ambassador Richard Butler right after the Gulf War, “but Hussein kicked them out in ’98,” he says. “The second team was led by Hans Blix (from 2000 to 2003), former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Both U.N. inspections teams did their job remarkably well under very difficult conditions.”

One of the problems, Cerami contends, was that the Bush administration didn’t let the Blix team finish their inspections. “It seems reasonable to have waited for the inspectors to have completed the work,” he notes. “They were reporting that they couldn’t find any WMDs, but they weren’t able to complete inspections of all of the suspected sites. The backdrop was the failure with North Korea − that there were reasonable expectations that Saddam Hussein’s regime was able to hide their weapons from the U.N. and the U.S. Especially after 9/11, we didn’t want to be fooled again.”

Cerami, a retired Army colonel who taught at the Army War College and at West Point, says many would now argue there was a rush to war with Iraq without enough evidence of WMDs. “What I said at the time was that I’m was skeptical and I think the case needs to be stronger,” he recalls. “Blix was asking for more time and he should’ve gotten it. There wasn’t an imminent threat at the time. Hindsight is 20/20; it’s easy to say now ‘we should’ve known.’ But war should have been the last resort.”

In examining counterproliferation efforts during the Clinton and Bush terms, Cerami concludes there was an overall decline in effective policymaking, except in the case of Nunn-Lugar. Overall, he finds in the North Korea and Iraq cases, there were significant gaps in pursuing counterproliferation policy initiatives.

In future policymaking, Cerami says he hopes to see collaboration with academia. “There are good ideas in the academic community that policymakers can draw on and those academics need to be consulted when major policies and decisions are being made,” he notes.

Innovation in policymaking is critical, he says, explaining, “The landscape of national security changed after the Cold War and again after 9/11. Today we have concerns about WMDs in terrorist hands, cyber security, biological weapons, border security and other emerging threats. Policymakers must be innovative in developing and implementing new approaches as these new threats evolve.”

Media contact: Lesley Henton, Division of Marketing & Communications, at 979-845-5591

About 12 Impacts of the 12th Man: 12 Impacts of the 12th Man is an ongoing series throughout the year highlighting the significant contributions of Texas A&M University students, faculty, staff and former students on their community, state, nation and world. To learn more about the series and see additional impacts, visit

December 10, 2013

5 Aggie Research Innovations In 2013

Whether in health and medicine, education or law, science or engineering, the arts and architecture, business or public policy, researchers at Texas A&M University are making a global impact with cutting-edge investigation and innovative ideas to tackle humanity’s greatest challenges. Here are just five examples of this year’s many innovative Aggie research projects.


All Photos:

Cow Antibodies Suggest New Therapies For People
There is perhaps no greater threat to humans and animals alike than infectious disease, and researchers at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVM) helped make a major breakthrough this year in the fight against bacterial and viral infections. CVM researchers, in conjunction with The Scripps Research Institute, studied an extraordinary family of cow antibodies which gives cows an unusual immune defense, and found they’re also suited to defend against pathogens in humans, opening the potential for new breakthrough therapies. Aggie researchers Waithaka Mwangi, Michael F. Criscitiello and Terje Raudsepp co-authored the study, published in the June 6, 2013 issue of the journal Cell.


bp oil spill signUsing Chemistry To Clean Up Oil Spills
The world watched in April 2010 as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest accidental marine oil spill in history, caused unimaginable damage to the Gulf Coast environment. Research into the prevention and mitigation of future oil spills is widespread at Texas A&M, and one of those researchers, College of Science Chemistry Professor Karen Wooley and her team are creating nanoparticles that can be used to soak up spilled crude oil. The team continues to work with this “nano-solution,” finding new and innovative applications including the delivery of drugs to treat ailments such as cancer and lung infections, according to the college.


ultrasoundNew Material May Improve Ultrasounds
Health research is thriving in many different colleges at Texas A&M, including the Dwight Look College of Engineering, where Biomedical Engineering Professor Vladislav Yakovlev and collaborators at three other universities developed a new material which converts ultrasound waves into optical signals that can be used to produce an image. The material, known as “metamaterial,” improves on conventional ultrasound technology which generates images by converting ultrasound waves into electrical signals, according to the college. This innovation shows the potential for producing high-quality images that show much greater detail, allowing medical professionals to see what they haven’t been able to see before.


asteroidUsing Paint Guns To Deflect Asteroids
It might sound like something out of a sci-fi comedy, but rest assured, it’s real. Dave Hyland, professor of physics and astronomy and a faculty member in Texas A&M’s aerospace engineering department theorizes that “tribocharging powder dispensing,” or the high-pressured spreading of a thin layer of paint over an approaching asteroid, will shift it from its current orbit. NASA liked the idea so much, they’ve approached Hyland to develop a project to test the theory and just in time, as a 1,000-foot long asteroid called Apophis will come close to us in 2029 and again in 2036, when there is a small chance it will hit Earth.


seaweedUsing Seaweed To Fight Storm Surge
In addition to the main campus in College Station, research at Texas A&M’s branch campuses is thriving and a good example is the much-needed research into hurricane mitigation at Texas A&M-Galveston. One standout project teams TAMUG researchers with the Galveston Island Park Board of Trustees for a pilot program to fight storm surge that may help save lives and protect property from rising sea levels and future hurricanes. The idea is to use the seaweed that washes ashore to fortify sand dunes to be more resilient to storm surges and high tides. This innovation may serve to prevent the massive damage seen in Galveston in 2008, when Hurricane Ike breached the seawall, flooding parts of the city.

Other innovative projects this year have included building bi-pedal robots, a new method of treating aneurysms, improved imaging for diagnosing oral cancer, a natural substitute for artificial food dyes and turning nuclear waste into energy.

For more on Texas A&M research, visit the Division of Research online at


About 12 Impacts of the 12th Man: 12 Impacts of the 12th Man is an ongoing series throughout the year highlighting the significant contributions of Texas A&M University students, faculty, staff and former students on their community, state, nation and world. To learn more about the series and see additional impacts, visit

About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world’s leading research institutions, Texas A&M is in the vanguard in making significant contributions to the storehouse of knowledge, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represents annual expenditures of more than $780 million. That research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit


Media contact: Lesley Henton, Division of Marketing & Communications at Texas A&M University;, 979-845-5591

August 27, 2012

Texas A&M Class Requires Students to Sign Non-disclosure Agreement

Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright said, “An idea is salvation by imagination.” If that’s true, Texas A&M University Professor of Architecture Rodney Hill is rescuing the minds of his students with innovative teaching methods that are designed to stimulate creativity. Ideas are such a valued commodity in Hill’s classes that students are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement before attending lectures.

If the waiting list for Hill’s “Environmental Design 101 C: The Design Process” class is any indication, students are happy to sign the waiver in exchange for a class with no textbooks or tests. “I tell my students to take the money they would have invested in a textbook, take that $100 and put it into a business, something from which they can reap profits,” says Hill.

And many students have done just that, patenting product ideas and launching businesses based on class projects. Patented student innovations have included everything from iPhone accessories to motion-sensor cat food bowls. One student started a business repairing iPhones, CS iPhone Repair, while enrolled in Hill’s class.

Hill, whose freshman class is open to all majors, is known for his unusual neckties and is popular among students for his anything-goes classroom philosophy. His unconventional methods include relaxation and visualization exercises, designed to put students into a creative mindset.

“Most scientists were in their early 20s when they came up with major innovations,” Hill notes. “Essentially, the 101 course is for students to discover themselves, which is what education should be about. Public schools don’t teach creativity, they teach you how to memorize information and regurgitate it on a test, not how to creatively develop ideas.”

Rodney Hill

Students of Rodney Hill, professor of architecture at Texas A&M, have launched products and businesses while enrolled in his class.

Hill’s students participate in innovation challenges, such as the Ideas Challenge, sponsored by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School, as well as a variety of other national and international contests.

Hill says he chose to teach at Texas A&M because it was the only school that would allow him to step outside a rigid outline of topics and set his own curriculum. He says the university was eager to begin new programs that would drive students to the front of their field and evolve their departments into the future.

It’s this forward-thinking that Hill drives into the minds of his students, making them aware of how future trends and theory will affect their career choices. “By 2020, roughly half of the new jobs that will enter the world have yet to be invented,” Hill muses. “By 2030, professions will be dramatically altered due to technology and innovation. I want my students to realize this.”

Hill takes this real-world approach into his lectures, even going so far as to have students participate in a business dinner simulation as part of his Architecture 458 class, “Global Ethics, Culture & Practice,” which explores the cultural aspects of business and how they differ among countries. During the two-and-a-half-hour lesson, Hill instructs students on the proper way to conduct themselves during a business dinner. “I’ve had a couple of students come back to me and say how much that helped because many of their job interviews were over lunch or dinner,” Hill recalls. “It helped calm their nerves to know they learned the necessary tools in my class.”

Accolades have poured in for Hill, including being named “creativity champion” in 2006 by the American Creativity Association. He holds the Eppright University Professorship in Undergraduate Teaching Excellence and the Harold L. Adams Interdisciplinary Professorship in Architecture. In 2011, he was selected as one of the top eight professors in the State of Texas to receive the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation Teaching Excellence Award. Campus recognitions include the Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Award at Texas A&M, an honor that Hill received based on nominations from students, faculty and deans. Hill has also been selected by the students as a Transfer Camp namesake and twice as a Fish Camp namesake.

Rodney Hill wood carving

A wood carving by Rodney and Susan Hill depicting the history of Texas A&M adorns a wall in the MSC.

Hill’s own creative vision can be seen on the campus of Texas A&M and beyond, in wood carvings and sculptures. A mural depicting the history of Texas A&M, created by Hill and his wife, Susan, is displayed in the Memorial Student Center (MSC). The six, 8-by-3-foot walnut panels were unveiled in 1976. And his 13-foot-high sculpture, cast in bronze and carved from walnut, stands in front of the engineering building at Texas A&M’s Qatar campus and depicts the scientific advances of the Arab world. Other sculptures related to the university include the Texas A&M and Qatar University maces, The Twelfth Man Foundation Shield, Silver Taps and Muster bronze sculptures, the walnut Muster Ceremonial Table, the Ceremonial Key for the Bush Presidential Library, carved pecan sculptures in the Corps Center, and the Sterling Evans Library Obelisk for Learning.

When it comes to the creative aspirations of his students, Hill’s expectations are high and as a result, he says the students usually meet and surpass those expectations. Their final grades depend on innovation and how well they develop their ideas into a viable business.

“Everybody has some creative abilities,” Hill says. “We’re just exposing the genius that previous education has blocked. The goal is to help the students to discover their potential and become comfortable and competent in dealing with accelerating change.”


Media Contact: Lesley Henton, News & Information Services at Texas A&M University;

(979) 845-5591;

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