Three Types of Innovation Centers Influencing Higher Education

By on December 15, 2016

From CannonDesign:  Everyone loves talking about innovation.

And, today’s students are surrounding the word with others like “make,” “hack” and “prototype” as they get set to head back to school in the month ahead.

Colleges and universities are listening to the dialogue and responding with new learning facilities billed as “innovation + incubator + maker centers” to support the shifting ambitions of students. These centers focus on multi-disciplinary inquiry that can foster partnerships with industry and fully leverage available grants and funding for research.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all innovation center universities are turning to for success. Instead, our education team recognizes three specific types of innovation centers – each with their own benefits – that are emerging on campuses across the world. It’s important for academic leaders to understand these three types and make strategic decisions to ensure they select a relevant and powerful model that will succeed at empowering their institution.

Here’s a brief look at the three different types:

Innovation Centers Promoting Multi-Disciplinary Learning

The challenges we face are becoming more complex and academic institutions are recognizing the power of crossing traditional academic lines to best respond. This recognition is fueling the creation of innovation centers that drive cross-pollination and fuse creative fields like computer science, math, design, engineering and others to expand potential for developing new products and real-world applications.

Texas Christian University (TCU) is focused on this type of innovation center with the introduction of Rees Jones Hall, an incubator facility designed to maximize social and intellectual connectivity. The building houses the TCU IdeaFactory, a unit of the College of Science & Engineering—and CannonDesign project—where students can develop ideas, advance prototypes, conduct market analysis and test. Rees Jones Hall surrounds the IdeaFactory with diverse programs including its Institute of Child Development and the TCU Energy Institute, organizing them around a central atrium to create a “vertical street” of interactive public space. This street helps the building facilitate creative, intellectual “collisions” to encourage student/faculty collaboration across multiple fields.

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