Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016
Virginia Commonwealth University announced today that it will distribute up to $295,000 from its Quest Innovation Fund to support 19 initiatives that will enhance the growth of VCU’s culture of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.
The projects include the development of a new test for a common tick-borne disease, a new course that will teach young journalists how to better explain science news and a viral video competition focused on student safety.
The fund will also support a number of student-led startup companies, such as a website to buy and sell used surfboards, a Richmond-area gourmet mushroom farm and a ride-sharing app focused on college students.
The Quest Innovation Fund, which was founded in 2012 to support the growth of VCU’s culture of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, was recently expanded to three funding pools to support projects by VCU students, faculty and staff that reflect VCU’s role in the Richmond economy, as well as key components of the university’s strategic plan, Quest for Distinction.
“VCU’s journey to record research and creative activity — fueled by the entrepreneurial spirit and initiative of our faculty, staff and students — is one reason why the Richmond region is becoming a recognized leader in innovation and entrepreneurship in America,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., who last summer announced the university’s membership on the region’s Innovation Council.
These projects show us that innovation and entrepreneurship are an integral part of life at VCU.
The 19 recipients of the Quest Innovation Fund demonstrate how VCU aims to support innovators, encourage bold thinkers and sponsor risk-takers, said Nicole Colomb Monk, enterprise and economic development executive in VCU Innovation Gateway in the Office of Research and Innovation.
“These projects show us that innovation and entrepreneurship are an integral part of life at VCU, and are proof that ‘make it real’ is not just a tagline for our billboards — it’s VCU’s mantra,” she said.
Six projects will receive grants from the traditional Quest fund, which aims to support innovative pilot initiatives at VCU that help realize the strategic plan, Quest for Distinction. These “disruptively innovative ideas” seek to create a service, program or initiative that will improve what VCU is doing in a creative and unique manner.
The recipients of the traditional Quest grants are:
- VCU Project Viral Video Greenlight
Principal Investigator: Aaron Anderson, Ph.D., associate professor and associate chair of the Department of Theatre, School of the Arts
The team, which will involve the Department of Theatre and the VCU Police Department, will hold a universitywide contest in which all VCU students will be invited to submit rough versions of videos focused on ensuring student safety. Winners will receive $200 and their videos will be used to produce a series of videos for distribution.
- Evidence-Based Practice for All
Principal Investigator: Elizabeth Farmer, Ph.D., associate dean for research and professor, School of Social Work
This project will allow the School of Social Work to launch a pilot project to introduce a web-based approach for guiding evidence-based practice in mental health treatment. The approach, Managing and Adapting Practice, or MAP, makes it possible for practicing clinicians to systematically assess, select, deliver and evaluate interventions with their clients.
- The Artfulness Initiative
Principal Investigator: Molly Ransone, assistant director, Learning Media Innovation, ALT Lab
The Artfulness Initiative aims to provide high-quality online resources to promote stress reduction and prevent burnout within the VCU community.
- Science Journalism Hybrid Course
Principal Investigator: Sara Williams, head of academic outreach, VCU Libraries
This project is to develop a Fall 2016 course featuring undergraduate journalism students and graduate students engaged in scientific research. The undergraduate journalism students learn to interpret scientific research and to report the findings accurately without “dumbing them down,” while the graduate students learn to write in a journalistic style.
- Understanding Connections Between Behavioral and Emotional Health, Co-Curricular Engagement and Student Success
Principal Investigator: Amy Adkins, Ph.D., College of Humanities and Sciences
Key leaders across VCU focused on student health and well-being, student engagement in co-curricular programming, and academic success will collaborate in this project to merge data from their respective divisions to carry out a comprehensive study on the factors that contribute to student success.
- Integrating Technology into the Accounting Curriculum at VCU: Bridging the Growing Tech Gap
Principal Investigator: Lindsay Andiola, Ph.D., assistant professor, School of Business
A team of business school faculty from several universities and corporate affiliates will collaborate to develop simulated experiential learning cases that integrate technologies widely used at public accounting firms into the undergraduate auditing classroom.
Four projects will be supported by the new Commercialization of Research pool of funding, which focuses on advancing research projects toward commercialization. With these funds, the university’s goal is to identify technologies with commercial potential and support “proof of concept” work that will de-risk these technologies and help attract other partners that can take the technologies to market, where they can benefit society as a whole.
The Commercialization of Research projects are:
- Development of a Test for Tick-Borne Disease
Principal Investigators: Jason Carlyon, Ph.D., and Richard Marconi, Ph.D., professors of microbiology and immunology in the Molecular Biology and Genetics program of the School of Medicine
This project aims to further develop a promising blood test for human granulocytic anaplasmosis, an emerging and potentially deadly disease that is the second most-common tick-borne infection, behind Lyme disease.
- A Miniaturized Air Quality Monitoring System
Principal Investigator: Daren Chen, Ph.D., professor and Floyd D. Gottwald Sr. Chair in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering in the School of Engineering
The goal of this project is to develop a miniaturized and cost-effective fine particle classifier to allow for air quality monitoring and testing.
- Development of Novel Catalysts for Drug Development
Principal Investigator: Keith Ellis, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, School of Pharmacy
This project is focused on the discovery and manufacturing of novel catalyzing agents to allow cost-effective and highly efficient synthesis of pharmaceutical active ingredients.
- Crawler to Assist Infants with Developmental Delays Develop Motor and Cognitive Skills
Principal Investigator: Peter Pidcoe, DPT, Ph.D., associate professor and assistant chair in the Department of Physical Therapy in the School of Allied Health Professions
This project focuses on the continuous development of the Self-Initiated Prone Progressive Crawler to a design that is attractive to the marketplace for children with disabilities, as well as other children. The crawler is a robotic system developed to promote movement, motor learning and environmental enrichment in children.
Nine students were selected as recipients of the new entrepreneurial pool of funds, which seek to support and encourage entrepreneurial activity at VCU.
Each recipient will receive a stipend and acceptance into VCU’s pre-acceleration program, which helps student entrepreneurs get their business ideas off the ground.
The recipients of the entrepreneurial Quest grants are:
- Board Grab
Student founder: Anthony Cannella, School of Business
Boardgrab.com is a platform that creates a marketplace for buyers and sellers of used surfboards, serving as an intermediary to ensure quality control of the products.
Student founder: Desmund Delaney, School of Business
8:00AM is an online sneaker store that sells new and lightly worn sneakers direct to consumers via eBay.
- Peace and Fluidity Designs
Student founder: Haley Cowan, School of Business
Inspired by Cowan’s study abroad experience in Australia and Southeast Asia during her sophomore year, Peace and Fluidity Designs is a brand that offers attire, clutches and yoga mat bags, emphasizing and encouraging an enlightened lifestyle.
- Urban Choice Mushroom Farm
Student founder: Lindsay Hawk, School of the Arts
Urban Choice is a Richmond-based urban gourmet mushroom farm that supplies locally grown “fresh and beautiful mushrooms that inspire culinary creativity.”
Student founder: Umar Hasni, School of Engineering
CUE has developed maternity clothing that incorporates electromagnetic shielding, preventing EM radiation from causing potential medical complications.
- Church Hill CSA Recipe Baskets
Student founder: Gabrielle Tenney, School of Business
Tenney is planning to develop entrepreneurial solutions to the problem of food deserts in Richmond’s East End. She plans to hold cooking competitions that allow VCU students in Church Hill to take their recipes and translate them into a Community Supported Agriculture basket that would be sold to the community.
Student founder: Brittany Allen, School of Engineering
MedMatch is developing a technology that aims to help increase the effectiveness of donating medical equipment between U.S. hospitals and hospitals in developing countries.
- No Stone Collective
Student founders: Brian O’Loughlin, School of Business, and Sarah Butler, School of the Arts
No Stone Collective is an outdoor-lifestyle brand focused on “embracing the everyday rough-and-tumble adventurer.”
- Ridewall LLC
Student founder: Daniel Calabro, School of Business
Ridewall.com is an application that provides ride-sharing services specifically focused on students in colleges and universities.
At VCU, innovation and entrepreneurship are part of our university culture.
The Quest Innovation Fund is a great example of how VCU is truly becoming a “Venture Creation University,” Colomb Monk said.
“VCU has developed a 21st-century approach to innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education,” she said. “We recognize the value of developing a future workforce with an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset. To that end, we do not concentrate our teachings within one specific school or ‘center,’ nor do we limit exposure to a traditional classroom. At VCU, innovation and entrepreneurship are part of our university culture.”
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