Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) Conference
A Seismic Shift in Promotion & Tenure
July 25 to 27, 2022
Background & Need
The most important output from a university† is the people it supports. The benefits to this output can be seen in the:
- Training of its students into graduates who possess the adaptive skills to excel in an ever changing workplace and serve as drivers for a vibrant economy.
- Development and support of its faculty that fuels both the fundamental expansion of human understanding as well as the world’s economic advancement through innovation.
We are committed to a diverse and inclusive approach to innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E). This commitment extends to both the breadth of universities engaged as well as the people that participate in this effort. I&E is a powerful tool to engage students, and when framed through the lens of societal impact can broaden the level of interest across the entire student population. More and more young faculty are equally interested in this topic as it provides real opportunity for maximizing the impact of their research.
Changing Landscape of Higher Education
The landscape of higher education is rapidly changing.[REF 1-7] Higher education is under pressure from numerous angles that include the following: rising costs coupled with disinvestment in public universities by state governments that drive tuition higher, disruptive technologies providing alternative career preparation tools for the public, shifting priorities for incoming students driven by a rapidly evolving workforce and highly competitive funding landscape for research (“grant”) dollars. Recent articles point to a growing misperception of the diminished importance of universities† in today’s society.[REF 8-9]
Role of Innovation & Entrepreneurship (I&E) in a University†
Despite these headwinds, the US university system is uniquely positioned to adapt to meet the 21st century needs of society. One method that universities are seeking to reinforce their importance to society is through “learning tracks related to innovation, design thinking and entrepreneurship.”[REF 10] This focus is well-aligned with recent data that shows that incoming student populations are increasingly focused on gaining I&E skills. The utility of these skills extends far beyond the young entrepreneur looking to start a business. For example, employers increasingly look for these skills in their new hires and are willing to pay a premium for individuals who possess them.
In order to enable this shift in educational focus, opportunities for university faculty must similarly expand to address this need. Fortunately, the positive impact of industry connections, patents and commercialization activities for university faculty has been demonstrated to:[REF 11]
- Provide additional funding opportunities for research;
- Increase research productivity and student success;
- Expand recognition of faculty member;
- Provide tangible societal benefit from scientific research.
Increasingly institutions are integrating I&E in combination with economic development as a specific mission within their strategic priorities. As an example of I&E engagement, over 100 institutions of higher learning now engage in the NSF National Innovation Network.
The Gap Between University Priorities and Faculty Evaluation Criterion
Despite these endeavors, the commensurate changes in the P&T guidelines of university faculty for most universities† within the United States (and around the globe) has not occurred in a systematic way nationally to recognize these “non-traditional” I&E components and foci as valued parts of a faculty member’s duties. Consequently, faculty are left in the awkward position of balancing their own interests in commercializing their research with the lack of explicit value assigned to I&E within the criterion for P&T to be utilized during peer review and the perceived conflicting high level I&E priorities presented by their institution’s strategic plans.[Ref 12-20] For the vast majority of universities, a fundamental expansion is needed in the P&T criterion (for teaching, research, advising and service) to inclusively capture the value of I&E endeavors. Any identified I&E criterion is not meant to replace existing paths for faculty promotion; it aims simply to expand the opportunities available for achieving success as an academic.
Possible Solution through a National Conversation on P&T and I&E
One supposition of the PTIE conference is that the gap between university priorities in I&E and the faculty evaluation criterion for P&T cannot be tackled in isolation. Through the support of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Award # CNS-1936073, this conference seeks to develop best practices and road maps for individual universities to augment their individual P&T guidelines to more inclusively support I&E among their faculty. This national conversation (network systems) approach should enable universities to move in concert with one another on this expansion, and to ensure a shared understanding when it comes to faculty hiring and external review during the promotion process. This website is intended to serve as a clearing house for the knowledge gained throughout this process.
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