Skip to main content Skip to navigation
WSU Economic Impact Talent

Entrepreneurial Faculty Ambassadors welcome new leader, broader mission

Washington State University President Kirk Schulz has elevated the university’s Entrepreneurial Faculty Ambassadors program to a Presidential Task Force status and appointed associate professor Amit Dhingra to lead the program.

Amit Dhingra
Amit Dhingra, EFA Leader

The moves signify the increased institutional emphasis WSU is placing on efforts to translate university research into products and services that benefit the public.

The Entrepreneurial Faculty Ambassadors (EFA) program was created in 2016 as a resource for faculty interested in starting a company or developing technologies for the marketplace that help create jobs and improve quality of life in the communities WSU serves. The program’s new, broader mission will include support for activities outside of the traditional startups and technology transfer associated with producing community-based societal and economic impact.

Actions based on ERIE recommendations

The EFA’s elevated status and new mission are based on recommendations from WSU’s external review of innovation and entrepreneurship activities (ERIE) at its campuses statewide, published in February. The actions implemented better align the EFA program with the university’s “Drive to 25” initiative to become one of the nation’s top 25 public research universities by 2025, and WSU’s commitment to developing innovations for the prosperity of the state of Washington and beyond.

“With this broader mission and presidential mandate, the EFA is evolving to nurture a larger community of creative innovators and entrepreneurs,” Dhingra said.

Dhingra replaces Glenn D. Prestwich, the Chancellor’s Distinguished Visiting Professor, WSU Spokane and Presidential Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Presidential Special Assistant for Faculty Entrepreneurship at the University of Utah. Prestwich served as the ERIE team leader and helped launch the EFA in 2016 based in part on the entrepreneurial faculty scholar program that he developed at the University of Utah.

Entrepreneurship is more than starting a company

The 11 inaugural EFA members spent the first year evaluating the type of resources that would be most valuable to the university community. During that process, the ambassadors realized there were entrepreneurial activities beyond traditional technology transfer taking place across campuses that should be supported by the group as well.

“By nature researchers are entrepreneurial,” said Brian Kraft, program manager for EFA and director of innovation and industrial research engagement for the Office of Research. “Research labs and creative studios across disciplines are essentially small businesses, seeking funding, building programs and hiring people to produce something that impacts society.”

While the EFA will still support researchers through the technology transfer process, they will also support endeavors such as developing community programs, publishing guidebooks or other activities that make positive economic and societal impacts through workforce, innovation or community development.

Recruiting new members

The EFA is launching recruitment efforts to include more faculty from all colleges and disciplines, recognizing that addressing global and community needs will involve the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

The ERIE report and EFA also support WSU’s role as a designated Innovation and Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities. The designation recognizes WSU’s efforts to support regional economic development and community engagement.

More information about the ERIE findings and recommendations can be found here: https://research.wsu.edu/office-research/report/innovation-and-entrepreneurship-review/. More information about WSU’s designation as an Innovation and Prosperity University can be found here: http://www.aplu.org/projects-and-initiatives/economic-development-and-community-engagement/innovation-and-economic-prosperity-universities-designation-and-awards-program/index.html

For more information on EFA, contact Amit Dhingra, 509-335-3625, adhingra@wsu.edu

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT: Semplice

Greek yogurt is the fastest growing dairy product line in America. The benefits of yogurt consumption are well-documented, but Greek yogurt production results in a large amount of acidic whey; a byproduct that the yogurt industry has no economic use for.

A WSU food science team has developed a solution: a tasty new low-calorie beverage that provides a boost of protein and potassium. The sports drink reduces food waste while also giving the yogurt industry a new revenue stream. » More …

Passion, energy, statewide resources drive young biotech

Sam Byrd Co-Optical
WSU alumni & Co-Optical CEO Samuel Byrd with a prototype of a glucose-monitoring device he worked with a student team to develop.

When Samual Byrd saw the daily challenges his mom faced as a recently-diagnosed diabetes patient, he wanted to do something to help her get healthy again. As a bioengineering student and entrepreneurship fellow at Washington State University, he was uniquely suited to actually take on that challenge.

And he did. » More …

Cross-state collaboration fosters student entrepreneurship

Engage student startup with prototype of their product, SafeShot
Engage student startup with prototype of their product, SafeShot

For two students who did not think much of entrepreneurship a year ago, Emily Willard and Katherine Brandenstein have been making quite a splash in Washington’s biotech startup space.

Their company – Engage – started as a senior design class assignment and evolved into a full time job that they will pursue after graduation.
» More …

Student interns help small business exporting

Guest Post from Hope Tinney with the Small Business Development Centers

Torklift International, an industry leader in after-market upgrades and accessories for truck campers, caravans and other recreational vehicles, has been selling its made-in-Washington products to camping enthusiasts around the world for decades.

For the most part, though, international customers were going online or working through an authorized dealer to buy tow bars, hitches, turnbuckles, truss extensions, tie-downs and other hardware, which meant the single-item shipping costs were high and the delivery time could be weeks, if not months.

With a relatively large and growing customer base in Australia, the family-run, Kent-based company started wondering if the customer demand could support a distribution center Down Under. » More …

Entrepreneurial students innovate to solve grand challenges

University faculty are not the only ones making an impact with their research – over the last few weeks WSU students have developed and been recognized for innovations that tackle grand challenges such as sustaining health around the world and developing sustainable resources. We wanted to take a moment to highlight these student teams, and demonstrate the impact that experiential education has not only on students’ development, but on their communities as well. » More …

Be like Owen: Take your tech skills to agriculture

General Electric recently released a series of commercials that repaints the 123-year-old industrial company as an innovative, fresh place to work for young computer scientists and programmers. GE’s wants to be viewed as the world’s premier digital industrial company, and Patrick Williams would like to do the same thing for agriculture. » More …

Hands-on learning that helps business community thrive

“I couldn’t hire enough people to do what Business Growth MAP has done for me. Hands-down, it’s one of the best things I’ve done since I opened.”

– Bonnie Brasure
Owner, Bleu Door Bakery

Bonnie Brasure represents one of the 145 organizations and entrepreneurs who have received free business consulting services from students in WSU Vancouver’s Business Growth Mentor Analysis Program (MAP) over the past four years. Since launching in 2011, participating companies reported $4.6 million of new revenues and 15 full-time jobs that are directly attributable to the program.

In recognition of that impressive economic impact, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities will recognize the program as a leading example of regional economic development at the annual meeting that starts Sunday. » More …