Aug. 22, 2023
VCU’s Shift Retail Lab wins Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Award
Part of the da Vinci Center, the lab supports students and local businesses while reimagining how entrepreneurship is taught.
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Fast Company has named the Shift Retail Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University a winner of the magazine’s 2023 Innovation by Design Awards, which honor the designers and businesses solving the most crucial problems of today and anticipating the pressing issues of tomorrow.
Shift Retail Lab, part of the da Vinci Center for Innovation at VCU, is a 2,700-square-foot multifunctional retail space at 1235 W. Broad St., across from VCU’s Stuart C. Siegel Center. The lab, which opened in fall 2021, supports VCU student innovators and entrepreneurs, providing them with a space where they can showcase their work, gain insights and test products, services and ideas with real-world customers.
Fast Company honored Shift Retail Lab in the Learning category of the Innovation by Design Awards, which will appear in the magazine’s September issue. In an article headlined “The next generation of entrepreneurs won’t be stuck in the classroom,” VCU and the da Vinci Center are recognized for reimagining entrepreneurship training in higher education.
Since its opening, Shift Retail Lab has supported over 145 entrepreneurs and welcomed more than 9,000 visitors into the space through over 150 events. The lab’s programming is open to all entrepreneurs on and off campus at any stage of development, and they can test their venture ideas through the “Shelfie” program. Some Shelfies are already in the market and come to the lab to expand brand awareness and sales, while others are early in the ideation phase and looking for help to reach the next level. Through support from community partners, Shift Retail Lab has expanded the Shelfie program to small-business owners in the community through the Richmond Entrepreneurship Academy.
“This award is a testament to the talented faculty and staff of the da Vinci Center who are committed to academic excellence and the student experience,” said Garret Westlake, Ph.D., associate vice provost for innovation and da Vinci Center executive director and professor. “I’m thankful for our community partners like Mark Hourigan who have helped build critical infrastructure that supports uncommon innovation and entrepreneurship experiences for students and the Richmond community.”
Shift is part of a radical future and is reinventing retail and education through human centered design and a commitment to access, equity, and inclusion, Westlake said.
“The Shift Retail Lab is flexible, future-focused, and constantly finding new and different ways to engage the creativity, discovery, and innovation that VCU needs to become the university of the future,” said Fotis Sotiropoulos, Ph.D., VCU provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “I’m delighted to see this well-deserved recognition of the opportunities it creates, and excited for what comes next from this inspiring resource.”
The lab was previously recognized by Fast Company in its 2022 World Changing Ideas Awards, receiving an honorable mention in the Urban Design category.
“So much innovation news these days is focused on AI,” Brendan Vaughan, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, said in a news release. “This year’s Innovation by Design honorees are a reminder that it’s human ingenuity that drives invention.”
Fast Company will recognize the awardees at its Innovation Festival in New York City in September.
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