Since the late 1990s, Louisiana Tech University has positioned itself as a pioneer in the integration of private industry and higher education in Louisiana. By incorporating innovation and entrepreneurship as core principles of the campus culture, the university has aligned education, research and technical assistance activities to match the needs of regional employers. These efforts have resulted in new and strengthened partnerships, collaboration between researchers and industry partners, and even the co-location of companies to the campus. Louisiana Tech University President Les Guice, Ph.D., who made partnerships with private industry a top priority for the university, shares Louisiana Tech’s innovation story:
[Q] What inspired the Louisiana Tech faculty and staff to pursue the mission of integrating with private industry?
[A] About 15 years ago, Louisiana Tech began an intentional strategic effort to incorporate a higher level of interdisciplinary academic and research activities into its basic mission and programs in an effort to enhance the overall quality and competitiveness of the institution. As the changing environment of higher education and trends in the global economy began to bring innovation and entrepreneurship to the forefront of strategic priorities, Louisiana Tech was already well-positioned to take advantage of the new reality. Since that time, Louisiana Tech has taken a leadership role in building the innovation ecosystem across the I-20 corridor in collaboration with key partners in the region.
[Q] What unexpected advantages did Louisiana Tech benefit from that could only be found in Louisiana?
[A] Louisiana Tech has benefitted greatly from the support and engagement of numerous partners. Federal and state economic development agencies have supported the university’s efforts to develop innovation programs and outreach efforts to build the university into an economic engine for the I-20 corridor region and the state. However, the most impactful partners in the university’s innovation efforts have been entrepreneurs and business partners. These entrepreneurs have come from the campus and from the broader region, and include students with ideas and ambition, as well as experienced business owners and business advisors who have succeeded and learned from failure in the business world. These entrepreneurs have contributed ideas for new products, energy to push projects and new ventures forward, and funding to support the programs and provide the impetus for launching new companies into the market.
[Q] What is Louisiana Tech doing that no other Louisiana-based university is doing?
[A] Louisiana Tech has been able to develop a uniquely flexible, market-oriented and responsive infrastructure that is easily accessible for outside partners. At Louisiana Tech, this element of the university’s mission is referred to as the Innovation Enterprise. This enterprise is well positioned to work directly with pre-venture entrepreneurs, existing businesses looking to explore new growth opportunities and prospective companies considering Louisiana for a new or expanded operation. The Innovation Enterprise can leverage the capabilities of students, faculty, facilities and other university relationships to support business development and economic growth efforts.
[Q] What impact is Louisiana Tech having on Louisiana’s economy?
[A] The Innovation Enterprise at Louisiana Tech is among the most productive in the nation in generating new innovations per dollar of research funding. This includes being among the top universities in spinning out startup companies, new technology licenses and reports of invention. The university’s performance on these metrics is indicative of its leading role as an economic driver for the I-20 corridor region. These companies and technologies spinning out of the university have the potential to impact the competitiveness of a wide variety of traditional industries and companies in the state from energy, construction, wood products and agriculture to information technology, cybersecurity, biosciences, nanotechnology, software development, telecommunications and digital media.
[Q] What would you say to those entrepreneurs who think they cannot be successful here?
[A] Louisiana is well known as a state with a very friendly and supportive regulatory and economic environment for business success. Additionally, Louisiana also has all the things needed to succeed in the new high-tech knowledge economy of the 21st century. The universities and other partners in the state can support everything from idea formation, to product development, to company launch, to high skilled workforce pipeline needs of major employers. Louisiana Tech and our regional partners are doing just that in the I-20 corridor region with major global companies as large as CenturyLink, CSC and fledgling startups as small as Jupiter Fuels and Alchemy Geopolymer Solutions.