UNH Entrepreneurship Center
In January 2016, the Peter T. Paul Entrepreneurship Center (ECenter) officially opened its doors and instantly became the heart of ideas, innovation, and entrepreneurship at the University of New Hampshire.
The ECenter exists to create the next generation of leaders with an entrepreneurial mindset, who can see opportunities and identify creative solutions others have missed, one idea at a time. For just over two years, the ECenter has worked to provide students, faculty, and alumni with the resources necessary to make their dreams into a reality. “It has always been about helping students and faculty become problem-solvers and idea creators first, and then supporting them as they take those ideas to the next level,” said ECenter Director, Ian Grant.
Although part of UNH, the ECenter is independent of any one college. It is co-curricular (non-academic) and uniquely delivers hands-on experiential programming that inspires, nurtures, and mentors students from any major, at every step of process, anywhere from idea development to company creation. To help students, faculty, and alumni become problem-solvers, Grant, along with ECenter Program Manager Heather MacNeill, has developed many programs, workshops, and resources to foster innovation.
It is really a start-up in an academic environment.
Grant, a serial entrepreneur with three start-ups that were all acquired, to his credit, takes the same innovative approach to building programs at the ECenter as he did with his start-ups and it’s also what he coaches students to do. “It is all about solving problems,” Grant commented. “We grew at start-up speed with some traditional programming and then quickly developed many more innovative programs to increase engagement of students from every college.”
One of those programs is the i2 Passport Program, developed for students and designed to encourage engagement in the areas of ideas, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Aside from the opportunity for learning, students are motivated by the $25,000 in cash prizes to help pay off student debt. In just two semesters, the program has caught the attention of the more than 600 individual students who have registered. Grant is proud to note that those 600 students come from a diverse set of majors and interests, and yet the program supports them all. Brady Camplin, a senior from the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences and one of the first winners of i2 Passport commented, “The i2 Passport Program opened my eyes to all of the opportunity here on campus for innovation. It also showed me that the ECenter is for more than business and entrepreneurship students. Even as a bioengineering student, there’s stuff going on that applies to me.” Included in the program are ECenter organized events, but activities from campus partners as well.
Just launched is the new Idea & Innovation Society for incoming first-year students who have demonstrated experience in ideas, innovation, and entrepreneurship. All UNH-accepted students were invited to apply with 25 being selected to the Society. In addition to immediately connecting with like-minded students and having an assigned mentor, each student can receive $200 in seed funding for their next idea. “We want to embrace and welcome students to the innovative culture at the ECenter and UNH at large,” Ian Grant said.
The ECenter is also home to the first-ever UNH Makerspace, where students of any year, major, or background can develop prototypes of their ideas. Situated next to UNH Innovation’s Cubex Co-Working Space, the Makerspace is the hub of creation on campus. Whether it be with 3D printers, the laser cutter/engraver, sewing machine, or the new CNC milling machine, the Makerspace provides students and faculty with the tools to take their ideas to physical creation.
Recently, the ECenter was recognized as the top emerging Entrepreneurship Center from 25 nominations by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers, which represents 250 member institutions in 15 countries. The award was based upon the quality, depth, and breadth of the program’s impact on students. Additionally, Grant was named one of Business NH Magazine’s “New NH Leaders” for his work at the ECenter and as a mentor to student entrepreneurs.
For more information on the ECenter, and to find out how you get involved, visit www.unh.edu/ecenter/.