Research universities are often drivers of innovation because of their commitment to ongoing research and new knowledge production and collaboration with industry partners. Such partnerships can be seen in knowledge hubs like Research Triangle in North Carolina, Research Park at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Silicon Valley. These hubs develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem that links the university and its larger community in the creation of an ideation-prototype-commercialization/patenting pipeline and provide training on how to apply university research to solve real-world problems.
Under the broader auspices of the UW–Madison Partnership with Nazarbayev University (NU), UW provided technical consultation and capacity building support for NU Research and Innovation System (NURIS). NURIS—NU’s innovation cluster—focuses on fostering an innovation and entrepreneurship culture at NU and in Kazakhstan by providing extensive support for start-ups, faculty, researchers, and industry partners; working with NU faculty to encourage ideation and innovation among students; and conducting accelerator programs, to name a few areas of their work. UW worked with NURIS from May 2018 through December 2019 in three main areas:
Business incubation and accelerator support. Staff from UW–Madison Discovery to Product (D2P) and Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) provided technical expertise and consultation regarding NURIS’s incubation and accelerator programs—which are geared toward NU stakeholders as well as the broader Kazakhstani community. The focus of this work was on mutually understanding the similarities and differences between programs, objectives, priorities, and processes at both institutions; sharing best practices; and co-creating recommendations for improvements at NURIS.
Commercialization. The UW team—involving D2P and WARF staff—provided relevant recommendations for program and policy improvements to NURIS’s Commercialization Office and its project review processes. Their recommendations focused on how these experiences and trainings can be used in the financing, patenting, and commercialization of projects.
Makerspace capacity building. UW–Madison Makerspace Director, Dr. Lennon Rodgers visited NURIS makerspace facilities and provided an external perspective on their operations and activities. His visit resulted in a series of recommendations that focused on ways to improve various policies and processes in the NURIS Fab and Digital Creativity Labs to facilitate greater engagement with NU faculty and students through partnership building and integration into existing coursework.