Polsky Center Launches New Strategic Program for Innovation at the National Labs to Support Entrepreneurial Thinking

Seventeen scientists and staff from Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory make up the first cohort of the SPIN program.

Led by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Strategic Program for Innovation at the National Labs (SPIN) kicked off on March 23rd with 17 scientists and staff from Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Through lectures and group simulation exercises taught by University of Chicago and Booth School of Business faculty, as well as external industry experts, the scientists and staff will get a world-class education over six months on aspects of entrepreneurship, including developing a growth mindset, communication and collaboration strategies, intrapreneurship, and technology commercialization.

“We wanted to create a program that taught entrepreneurial mindset, entrepreneurial practice and also give the cohort the entrepreneurial spirit,” said Chicago Booth Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship Robert Altman, who developed the program in collaboration with the Polsky Center’s Dan Sachs, executive director of education and programs, and Anna Wislocki, senior program manager, sciences.

“It is our goal to have these learnings in entrepreneurship be put into practice in two ways. One is to enhance, augment and benefit the approach to their basic research. The second way is to develop a refined approach to applied research inspiring meaningful innovation,” explained Altman.

“Historically there have been some amazing and important applications of the national labs’ basic research,” added Altman. As one example, every major medical center in the nation uses accelerators producing x-rays, protons, neutrons or heavy ions for the diagnosis and treatment of disease. “This innovation came out of the high-energy physics labs,” he noted. “We hope to inspire our cohort to use the learnings from the program to create other meaningful applications.”

To achieve these goals SPIN will offer a program featuring three domains of learning: the entrepreneurial mindset, the structure of entrepreneurship, and applied research in action.

Several distinguished faculty also will lend their experiences and knowledge to the cohort, including serial entrepreneur Jeffrey Hubbell, Eugene Bell Professor in Tissue Engineering in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering; Elena Zinchenko, adjunct associate professor of behavioral science and assistant provost for research; Michael Polsky, MBA ’87, president and CEO of Invenergy; Margaret Fleetwood, adjunct assistant professor of entrepreneurship; and Juan de Pablo, the Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering,  and executive vice president for science, innovation, national laboratories, and global initiatives at UChicago, and senior scientist at Argonne. De Pablo also provides oversight of entrepreneurship and innovation activities at the Polsky Center.

SPIN is supported by the University of Chicago Joint Task Force Initiative (JTFI), a signature UChicago program dedicated to helping Argonne and Fermilab achieve mission success by opening channels of frequent communication and collaboration across institutions.

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