VUSE lends support in $500K Kauffman partnership to encourage entrepreneurs

Vanderbilt University School of Engineering's Innovation Center, due to open next year, will connect the university with Nashville's existing makerspaces and further encourage entrepreneurship.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation announced Tuesday it will partner with the city of Nashville, rewarding agencies that encourage entrepreneurship with grants to foster collaboration and connection.

The partnership was the result of a competitive process supported by the city, The Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Vanderbilt University School of Engineering and a number of other government, academic and business organizations. Nashville and Burlington, Vt., were selected from among 100 metro areas the foundation invited to apply.

Rachel Carlton, Kauffman’s senior program officer, said the School of Engineering’s support of the city’s proposal was an important factor in the selection.

“We were looking for a sense of collaboration that included leading educational organizations,” she said.

School of Engineering Dean Philippe Fauchet

School of Engineering Dean Philippe Fauchet was one of The Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s guests for the announcement, which included comments from Carlton, Mayor Megan Barry, NEC President and CEO Stuart McWhorter and NEC Chairman John R. Ingram.

The first grant will be six figures to the entrepreneur center, Carlton said, although exact amounts haven’t been decided. The foundation will distribute $500,000 total over 18 months to a number of organizations, along with providing technical assistance and research.

The School of Engineering fosters and encourages entrepreneurship for its students and professors, and several have launched technology companies on their own or through Vanderbilt Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization. Soon, the School’s efforts will extend to the broader community, plugging into the city’s makerspace culture with its new Innovation Center.

The Innovation Center will feature state-of-the-art space for collaboration, workshops and programming as well as prototyping and visualization tool space. It will be housed in a pavilion designed as part of the new Engineering and Science Building, scheduled to open in the summer of 2016.

The private, nonpartisan Kauffman Foundation, which is based on Kansas City, Mo., and has $2 billion in assets, also partners with Albuquerque, N.M., in this capacity.That partnership was announced in May. The foundation’s founder launched his own pharmaceutical company from his basement in 1950, calling it Marion Labs. It sold to Dow Chemical in 1989 in a deal valued at more than $5 billion.


Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
On Twitter @VUEngineering