Distinguished faculty member and successful entrepreneur Dr. Hadi Bozorgmanesh of the University of Connecticut School of Engineering is Director of the UConn Entrepreneurship & Innovation Consortium and leads the community at the UConn Innovation House. Dr. Bozorgmanesh told Innovation Destination Hartford about the ways in which the programs at UConn are helping students explore innovation and entrepreneurship.
IDH: Tell us about the UConn Innovation House.
BOZORGMANESH: Innovation House is one of 28 Learning Community options UConn students can select to participate in. Students live on a residence hall floor, they take an Innovation House seminar course, and they participate in co-curricular and experiential activities.
Eric Sirois, PhD serves as Associate Director of Innovation House. Dr. Sirois earned his Mechanical Engineering degree from UConn in 2014 and is CEO of startup Dura Biotech, which developed out of his UConn research work and enrollment in my graduate-level course teaching engineering graduate students entrepreneurial skills.
Dr. Sirois and I lead first- and second-year undergraduate students through the same value creation and idea development exercises taught to graduate students. By week five of their first semester, teams of students are presenting their business ideas to a panel of UConn entrepreneur alumni.
Last year, student teams worked on developing nine business ideas with innovations addressing problems such as children accidentally being left in locked cars to shopping for a better fit in clothing on-line. Outside of the classroom, students participated in skill- and network-building events.
Vivek Tedla, 2018 finance major,was named National Federation of Independent Business’s 2014 top five young American entrepreneurs and received the UConn Student Life Award for First Year Excellence in Innovation. Students participated in the Core CBIT Healthcare Hackathon co-hosted by UConn and Yale. They also visited MassChallenge, one of the largest startup company incubators in the world, and the Cambridge Innovation Center, where they networked with entrepreneurs and saw how their businesses were run.
BOZORGMANESH: I was identified as Faculty Director the first year Innovation House was launched, in 2013. I lead First Year Experience courses for student participants. I invite distinguished guests to present to students, meet with students one-on-one, and identify opportunities to engage students with entrepreneurial activities on campus or in the local region.
IDH: What types of students become involved with the UConn Innovation House?
BOZORGMANESH: Innovation House is open to students of any major. This year, 22 majors as diverse as applied mathematical sciences, biology, biomedical engineering, digital media and design, economics, environmental engineering, management information systems, molecular and cell biology, and political science are represented by the first- and second-year student participants.
IDH: How many students are involved?
BOZORGMANESH: About 70 first- and second-year students are involved in Innovation House.
IDH: What do you enjoy most about working with entrepreneurial students?
BOZORGMANESH: The enthusiasm and talent of UConn’s youngest students should not be underestimated. With the right support and guidance, they are fully capable of being equipped and inspired to contribute to the University’s tradition of innovation and applied intellectual creativity.
IDH: In what ways do you feel the programs and services at UConn are fostering entrepreneurship?
BOZORGMANESH: The programs and services at UConn serve to foster entrepreneurship and innovation by inspiring, promoting, connecting resources, and building awareness throughout the university and external community while providing essential services supporting entrepreneurship including infrastructure capabilities, talent harvesting, networking, and education.