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From Kentucky Economic Development Guide 2015

From Mind to Marketplace

Kentucky’s education system helps young, creative minds prepare for
their place in the world.

Northern Kentucky University’s Griffin Hall, new home of the College of Informatics.
Photo courtesy of Northern Kentucky University

Rodin’s The Thinker at the University of Louisville.
Rodin’s The Thinker at the University of Louisville.
Photo courtesy of The University of Louisville

rom creating the most pioneering business environments to mentoring students who build life-saving mobile-apps, Kentucky’s colleges and universities are turning students and entrepreneurs into the next great innovators.

Every post-secondary institution in the state has created programs and implemented new and innovative ways to get young minds ready for the marketplace. Here are a few examples of this success:

Nucleus, University of Louisville’s Center for Innovation

Besides being a world-class school focusing on research and commercialization, the University of Louisville (U of L) champions an innovation center called Nucleus, which helps people with good ideas bring them to fruition. “As the innovation center, Nucleus understands business and nurtures start-up companies from the mind to the marketplace,” says Dr. James Ramsey, president of U of L.

Nucleus provides over 300,000 sq. ft. of wet and dry labs and office space where researchers can turn their projects into market-ready products. Besides facilities, Nucleus offers business management services to help new entrepreneurs with their marketing plans.

“Nucleus works to create a seamless continuum between U of L and the business community,” explains Vickie Yates Brown, president and CEO of Nucleus. “Our partnerships with the university and businesses allow access to world-class expertise and resources across the spectrum of commercialization.”

An example of one such partnership would be the biotech company Advanced Cancer Therapeutics. Founded in January 2007, the company focuses on the discovery and development of novel cancer therapeutics. “The Nucleus ecosystem allows like-minded individuals to interface in a professional atmosphere,” says Randall Riggs, the company’s president and CEO.

“It may even lead to future collaboration or partnerships.”

Northern Kentucky University Is a Life Saver

Information silos are not allowed at Northern Kentucky University’s (NKU) College of Informatics (COI). “The idea behind creating the COI was to break down the walls of a traditional college,” says Kevin Kirby, dean of COI.

The Center for Applied Informatics (CAI) within the College of Informatics is one way the university tears down walls. CAI pairs entrepreneurs who need a certain expertise, such as programming or project management, with students who have those needed skills.

Instrument Life, a company focused on the music industry, utilized CAI and achieved great results. “CAI at NKU is a critical piece in the success of Instrument Life,” says Chris Sturm, co-founder. “They put the leadership in place from a project-management standpoint, taking pressure off our team. It is exciting to think a business can have such a tight connection with a university.”

Another CAI collaboration is saving lives. Richard Price, a former fire chief had an idea but neither the money nor the skill to develop it. “It just struck me that we could have off-duty professionals — police, firefighters, nurses and all the CPR trained citizens — who had to be in the exact right place at the right time,” he says. “We have these phones now. Could we use someone’s phone to determine their locations … give them the same capabilities as first responders?”

Price brought his concept to CAI, and the program’s students went to work. The result was PulsePoint: an award-winning mobile-app platform designed to quickly locate and notify CPR-trained responders that someone nearby is having a cardiac emergency and needs help. As of today, more than 700 communities in 20 states have added the PulsePoint technology to their 911 call centers.

The University of Kentucky Helps Entrepreneurs

The University of Kentucky (UK) in Lexington is the largest post-secondary institution in the state. The university is one of eight in the United States that has 11 colleges, six professional schools and a graduate school all on one contiguous campus. The university’s expertise is powerful, according to Eli Capilouto, president of UK who also champions the motto “University FOR Kentucky.”

That kind of clout enables the university to act as a statewide stimulus for economic growth. The impetus of that growth comes from the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship, part of the Gatton College of Business and Economics. The center helps commercialize UK research, facilitates university-industry collaborations and assists entrepreneurs and small businesses in creating jobs.

It must be working. In 2014, Gatton attracted four new high-tech companies and provided over $3.3 million in grants and capital investment to Kentucky.

Capilouto offers the following insight about Kentucky’s post-secondary education system, “We in Kentucky have the opportunity to unlock so many mysteries that not only inform our state and improve our condition, but serve as an example across the United States and across the globe.”

KCTCS Prepares Kentucky’s Workforce for the Future

Innovation isn’t just limited to Kentucky’s four-year institutions. Kentucky’s Community & Technical College System (KCTCS) is finding innovative ways of educating and training the state’s workforce. KCTCS, comprised of 16 colleges serving over 90,000 students on 70 campuses, assumes that responsibility with great pride.

KCTCS also offers custom training programs designed specifically for the requesting business. The local community college works hand-in-hand with area businesses to teach the specific skills students need to graduate and be qualified for careers with those companies. Classes are held either at a KCTCS campus or on-site at the business.

Newly appointed president of KCTCS, Dr. Jay Box, knows the importance of choices and KCTCS’s obligation to help students find gainful employment regardless of the track they choose. “We must constantly evaluate our programs to see if there is a need in our communities,” says Box. “At the same time we need to look for new technology programs that will help drive the economy of local communities, enable an educated workforce and recruit new businesses or help businesses expand.”

Whether it’s helping someone in their career or classroom, Kentucky’s colleges and universities are at the forefront of innovation. Their work is helping to create the next great visionaries of today and tomorrow.

Team Kentucky: Gov. Andy Beshear shares his vision on the state's success and how he intends to grow the state's agritech sector.   

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