The Brains for Business – Campuses take the lead in encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship

Excerpt of an article in the Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly Magazine, Summer – Fall 2014 Edition, Page 30, Written by Shari Held. [Opens in New Window]

Education and entrepreneurship. It’s a winning combination that’s only going to become more prominent in years to come.  Institutions of higher education are teaching students the skills they need to start their own small businesses so they earn a livelihood or maybe even become millionaires (think Mark Zuckerberg). And more important, their innovations may make the world a better place. Universities are going way beyond the classroom experience. They’re paving the way for entrepreneurship with experiential learning, innovative programs, financial incentives and crucial support. Whether they help community members create low-tech businesses or engineer opportunities for faculty researchers to partner with students and launch high-tech, bioscience-related startups, it’s all important to the economic development of Northwest Indiana.

Chenn Zhou, Ph. D., director of Purdue Calumet's CIVS standing in the Immersive Theater

OPPORTUNITIES Chenn Zhou, Ph. D., is director of Purdue Calumet’s Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation.


Founded in 2009, Purdue Calumet’s Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation (CIVS) is a research center that fosters the development of applications across many disciplines. Currently it works with more than 65 faculty and staff and more than 80 external organizations. While visualization and simulation applications are key to her mission, Chenn Zhou, Ph.D., the center’s director, has made it her goal to promote entrepreneurship for students and faculty campus-wide.

“When students graduate they have all kinds of opportunities,” Zhou says. “I just believe there is more  pportunity to commercialize their technology and innovative ideas. That’s why we want to promote this culture, so our students can become successful entrepreneurs in the future.”

This spring CIVS invited consultant Kelly Schwedland, Elevate Ventures’ entrepreneur-in-residence for the Northern Indiana regions, to speak with faculty. Elevate Ventures works with emerging and existing high-potential businesses to take them to the next level. Plans are to have him talk with students next time. CIVS encourages faculty, research staff and students to apply for grants from the National Science Foundation and other grant-issuing institutions to train them how to start their own companies. The center also actively copyrights software developed by faculty and students through the university.

“Once the copyright is guaranteed, the entrepreneurs can commercialize those copyrights,” Zhou says.

To date CIVS has copyrighted the first virtual blast furnace, which will be used as virtual training for the steel industry worldwide and an Irish dance application. That’s diversity for you! And this is just the beginning. Many other copyright applications are in the works.