April 2011 Theme:
Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Guest Editor's Introduction by Ron Vetter

Nowhere has the impact of entrepreneurship and innovation been more dramatic and significant than in computing, engineering, and information technology. Indeed, high-tech businesses have long relied on innovative change as a key factor to their very survival. Simply put, companies that don’t innovate don’t survive.

The entrepreneurial spirit has been responsible for the creation of numerous science and technology companies. In the mid to late 1990s, many entrepreneurs started new technology businesses during the so-called “Internet revolution.” Although some companies survived, others did not. However, it’s clear that a talented workforce, one that embraces innovation, was essential to the rapid growth and creative success these businesses enjoyed.

Recent economic difficulties have leaders around the world talking about the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship as the primary drivers necessary to help bring the world’s economies back to prosperity. What innovation models have successful companies adopted? How can universities, especially small ones, contribute to and expand economic opportunities by getting research commercialized more quickly? How can students engage in entrepreneurial activities? Should entrepreneurship be part of the science and engineering curriculum? What skills should innovation leaders possess? These are some of the questions this month’s theme aims to answer.

Selected Articles and Multimedia

The first article, “Technology Development as an Alternative to Traditional Technology Transfer Models,” (login required for full text) describes an approach to university technology development as an alternative to traditional technology transfer models. Author Steven Fontana argues that focus should be placed on an iterative process where innovators are encouraged to disclose the inventive concept early in the technology development process. This way, personnel can be enlisted to influence the direction of technology development activities, including legal decisions, marketing, and commercialization. (Listen to an audio overview of the highlights of the article in the Related Multimedia sidebar.)

The next two articles, “Entrepreneurial Innovation at Google” (login required for full text) by Alberto Savoia and Patrick Copeland and “Open Innovation at HP Labs” (login required for full text) by Prith Banerjee, Rich Friedrich, and Lueny Morell, describe innovation models adopted by two leading technology companies. In the first article, Savoia and Copeland describe how Google implements and leverages its own brand of entrepreneurial innovation, which the authors estimate is responsible for approximately half of the company’s new products and features. (See a PDF presentation about how this works in the Related Multimedia sidebar.) The second article describes how HP Labs uses the concept of open innovation to encourage an entrepreneurial culture that values experimentation and creativity.

Educating student entrepreneurs is another important aspect of expanding the next generation of innovators and creative class workforce. In “Cultivating Entrepreneurial Thinking through IEEE-CS Student Chapters,” (login required for full text) Ann Gates and her coauthors describe how specialized student chapters can help students obtain the tools necessary to cultivate entrepreneurial skills. (See a video of students discussing this program in the Related Multimedia sidebar.) In “Engineering and Innovation: An Immersive Start-up Experience,” (login required for full text) Tom Miller and his colleagues describe the pedagogical model used to educate engineering students at North Carolina State University about entrepreneurship, including the lessons learned from seventeen years of experience. This video gives an overview of the program.

This theme also includes a video interview with Al Davis from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He discusses the lessons he’s learned over the course of his career, gives tips on how to grow a software company, and discusses his future plans. (See the video in the Related Multimedia sidebar.)

The last article, “Innovation: There Is Something New Under the Sun” (login required for full text) by Linda Cureton, discusses some of the skills technology leaders need to be effective agents of innovation and change.

Computer Entrepreneur Award

To recognize and honor the technical managers and entrepreneurial leaders who are responsible for the growth of the computer industry, the IEEE Computer Society has established the Computer Entrepreneur Award. The 2009 Computer Entrepreneur Award went to Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner for founding Cisco Systems and pioneering the commercialization of routing technology. Watch a video of Mr. Bosack and Ms. Lerner accepting their award.

If you’d like to recognize an innovative colleague or fellow IEEE Computer Society member, consider submitting a nomination for the 2012 Computer Entrepreneur Award. Visit the Awards Nomination page and click on the “Nominate” link to get started. The nomination deadline is 15 October 2011.

Guest Editor

Ron Vetter, the co-founder of Mobile Education, LLC, and a professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, was also the editor-in-chief of Computer. Contact him at vetterr at uncw dot edu.


Related Multimedia

Steven A. Fontana, technology development officer for the University of North Carolina Wilmington, talks about the highlights of his article, “Technology Development as an Alternative to Traditional Technology Transfer Models.” (login required for full text)

Learn about a specialized IEEE Computer Society student chapter designed to develop entrepreneurial thinking skills in computer science students. This chapter is discussed in the article “Cultivating Entrepreneurial Thinking through IEEE-CS Student Chapters.” (login required for full text)

Download Video

Take a look at Alberto Savoia and Patrick Copeland’s presentation (PDF, 16pp., 680KB) about the innovation model they discuss in their article, “Entrepreneurial Innovation at Google.” (login required for full text)

Author, professor, and entrepreneur Al Davis discusses the lessons he’s learned over the course of his career, gives tips on how to grow a software company, and discusses his future plans.

Download Video