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Princeton University – Creating a Culture of Inclusive Innovation

Elena Galán-Muros

We are delighted to welcome and introduce our new organisational member, Princeton University, to the UIIN Community. A first acquaintance may have already been made at the 2022 UIIN Conference, where Christina Pellicane presented the University’s involvement as lead of the Northeast Regional I-Corps Hub, a regional alliance providing experiential entrepreneurial training to academic researchers. An online conversation with several colleagues from the Office of the Dean for Research, however, enlightened us about the wealth of innovation and engagement activities taking place across the campus and exciting developments coming up.

Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity’, is the motto of the prestigious Ivy League University. As one of the world’s foremost research universities, Princeton University aims to inspire its students, faculty, staff and alumni to create societal impact. The motto is reflected in the spirit of the students, with a strong desire to apply their research to the outside world seen across students and postdocs. Driven by this, the University realised the need for building a well-integrated and nurtured innovation ecosystem to help connect the students with the university’s innovation initiatives and partners.

Innovation has always been a pillar at Princeton University, as reflected in its active research profile and spin-out history. However, the appointment of the first Vice Dean for Innovation (VDI) in 2020, Rodney Priestley, a professor in chemical and biological engineering, was instrumental to further growing this ecosystem and focus on innovation. For example, a wealth of new programs and energy around innovation was developed, driven by Princeton Innovation – a campus-wide initiative providing support for innovation and entrepreneurship and serving as the entry point for external engagement.

In response to the number of students and postdocs seeking to apply their research to the real world, the University realised the need for building a well-integrated and nurtured innovation ecosystem

The Princeton Innovation Initiative presented an opportunity to highlight the innovation activities that were already going on across the campus, while at the same time initiating new activities, such as the I-Corps Hub and the Air Force regional research Hub, a cooperative agreement that will spark collaboration between academia, government and industry from across the Middle Atlantic region. Several new training programs have been launched for faculty, postdocs and graduate students interested in innovation, as well as entrepreneurship programs and accelerator bootcamps to guide and enhance start-up projects. To top it off, the University launched the annual Engage Conference, which over the past two years has attracted over 5600 registrants and close to 300 speakers. It should come as no surprise, then, that the increased activity has resulted in great success, with Princeton start-ups raising more than $500 million in funding over the past 2 years.

The University is now at a unique point in the innovation journey where the collaborations are thriving actively across all units, supported by Princeton Innovation, the Office of Technology Licensing, the Corporate Engagement and Foundation Relations team and the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council. With the appointment of a new VDI last month, Craig B. Arnold, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and former director of the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials, a wind of change has arrived to steer the engagement activities in new directions.

The expansion of the number of industry partnerships is one of the main goals of the team, driven by the aim to create a culture of innovation across all disciplines

With the wealth of collaborations happening spread across Princeton’s 70+ departments and interdisciplinary centers, the role of communications has been a key priority to understand and connect the engagement activities internally and promote them to external parties. The latter, in fact is paramount to the expansion of the number of industry partnerships, which is one of the main goals of the Office, driven by the aim to create a culture of innovation across all disciplines at Princeton to enhance its impact on society. In particular, the University is looking to expand its focus on inclusive innovation. The University for instance recently started a partnership program with five Historically Black Colleges and Universities designed to enable research collaborations between the faculties, as well as the Startup Training and Research Transition (START) program, created to support aspiring commercial and social entrepreneurs – and in particular individuals that are underrepresented in academic entrepreneurship – with the commercialisation of their research.

Joining the UIIN Community, therefore, presents an opportunity for Princeton University to connect with a diverse network of engaged universities and businesses from across the globe, and to hear about their approaches, structures and models to find innovative ways to build valuable partnerships with other academic institutions as well as industry.


Craig B. Arnold

Are you interested in exchanging insights or would you like to learn more about the University’s innovation initiatives and objectives?
Get in contact with Craig B. Arnold, Vice Dean for Innovation, via email.



Image credits: Princeton University

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