The concept of innovation has been especially trendy at business school over the last decade, with business schools launching everything from design labs to classes devoted to the topic. The Wharton School has been part of this wave of interest, hosting events like the Wharton Sports Innovation Conference and creating the Mack Center for Technological Innovation. They’re now adding to their offerings in this field this fall with the launch of the new Wharton Innovation Fund, an initiative to encourage students, faculty and staff to come up with inventions or services that “show promise for making a substantial impact on business or society as a whole,” according to a Wharton press release. Alberto Vitale, a Wharton alum and former CEO of Random House, has provided the seed money for the fund, which will provide approximately $125,000 worth of grant money each year for projects. Vitale says he views the fund as “a catalyst to stimulate innovation at the school and to surface the brainpower of its students.”
Wharton Professor Karl Ulrich, also the school’s vice dean of innovation, will head the innovation initiative. “This fund will enable our work to have an even greater impact in so many arenas,” says Ulrich, who co-authored a best-selling book on innovation tournaments.
The fund’s advisory board will consider both student-led proposals and those that involve faculty, students and staff, the school says. Students who come up with new ideas will be allowed to retain control of the intellectual property of their ideas. However, if a team uses inventions or ventures that are part of the school’s intellectual property, proceeds that result from the project will be shared among the inventers, the school and the university, the school says.
My first business, buySAFE, was essentially a Wharton class project that I eventually turned into a business. I can't adequately describe how much I benefited from my Wharton experience in starting buySAFE. Without Wharton, there would have been no buySAFE.
Having said that, I really would have loved this new Wharton Innovation Fund. It is a great idea, and if you are an aspiring entrepreneur thinking about going to business school, this should make your decision very simple.
Wharton is the best business school in the world, and if you can turn your class project into a viable business idea, you might just get funding from Wharton to help you make the venture a reality. Does it get any better than that?
Well done Wharton!