Identifying Trans-disciplinary Opportunities to Fuel Innovation

by Mika Perlada, graduate intern at NJCBM

University research and innovation are increasingly becoming integral components of technological entrepreneurship. From discovery of streptomycin to cure tuberculosis to the development of computer operating systems, universities have incubated some of the most fundamental platforms that have eventually changed the human lives in medicine, health and technology.

Academic science has indeed made its global footprint, but the challenge of facilitating university efforts still needs to be addressed. Professor Glenn Prestwich, speaking on June 23, 2015 at the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials at Rutgers – the State University of New Jersey, shared his insights about the potential of trans-disciplinary learning to generate creative connections as a means to bridge the research and industrial markets.

The process of de-risking potentially high impact technologies begins with strategically networking among both faculty and students. According to Dr. Prestwich, most faculty have deep expertise but low risk profiles and little time, and serve as mentors for students, who have passion and are risk-takers with time to invest. “Working together, their combined scholarly activities in translational research, teaching and service can bring the fruits of technology to the public”. 

Game changing innovations require the active feedback and critique of not only those who are experts in a particular field but also of peers in all departments. A scholarly culture of impact requires communication among faculty and students in all departments on campus, and this means incorporating the creative arts, humanities, design and engineering sciences, mathematics and medicine. Dr. Prestwich presented successful models of trans-disciplinary products that have sprung from the Innovation Ecosystem at the University of Utah, where he is based.

In 2007, Dr. Prestwich founded a group called the Entrepreneurial Faculty Scholars whose mission is to create a culture of impact. By putting seasoned faculty entrepreneurs and colleagues who have successfully started companies with students and innovative faculty, common interests and product development plans can be aligned.

Dr. Prestwich summarized the experience of Utah’s innovation programs: Identifying trans-disciplinary opportunities is a key step towards leveraging the value of research and intellectual property. The challenge of integrating across departments is complex but also rewarding. Students are at the forefront of these initiatives and begin to pilot their ideas in a realistic environment. This presents a promising and valuable learning experience by breaking barriers and encouraging engagement to find solutions, in the most creative ways possible.

To read all NJCBM BLOGS please click here.