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New entrepreneurs network links alums, students and faculty

The new network, Lehigh Entrepreneurs Network, is possible thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, Missouri. The Kauffman Foundation selected Lehigh’s proposal for the network from among 300 applicants for its 2003 Collegiate Entrepreneurship Network program.

"Familiarity breeds … no, not contempt, but imitation," says John Ochs, professor and director of the award-winning Integrated Product Design (IPD) Program. He is counting on both the strong desire to emulate success and the flattery of being imitated as key motivators in the creation of the network.

The grant will fund the creation and implementation of the Lehigh Entrepreneurs Network to provide real-world assistance to students of Lehigh’s IPD Program, a cross-disciplinary initiative in which students learn new product development from concept through manufacturing and market ramp-up.

"This national recognition by the Kauffman Foundation, a preeminent supporter of entrepreneurial education in the country, reaffirms our belief that Lehigh is among the best educational environments anywhere for technology entrepreneurs," says Todd Watkins, associate professor of economics and co-founder of both the IPD program and the Lehigh Entrepreneurs Network. "Technology-driven companies like Ecotech Marine and S.O.S keep popping up from campus, started by undergraduate students taking full advantage of Lehigh’s entrepreneurial infrastructure."

'Relevant and real’

Companies created by Lehigh students have attracted more than $100,000 in start-up financing from national competitions over the last few years, Watkins says. By drawing on the experience and advice of Lehigh alumni who have already built companies, Lehigh faculty believe that the entrepreneurial possibilities will expand even more for students, faculty, and alums.

"We are in the process of recreating education by developing a truly entrepreneurial educational environment open to students from all disciplines," Ochs says. "The Lehigh Entrepreneurs Network is a primary component to keeping us relevant and real."

Lehigh’s IPD program was one of the first undergraduate programs to fully integrate design arts, engineering, and business for successful product design and commercialization. Companies such as AT&T, Black & Decker, ExxonMobil, Air Products and Chemicals, and General Motors sponsor the student projects. For more information on the IPD Program, visit www.lehigh.edu/ipd.

The Kauffman Foundation was established in the mid-1960s by the late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman. The grant to support the Lehigh Entrepreneurs Network of IPD is part of the Kauffman Foundation’s mission to enhance entrepreneurship education on college campuses across the nation (see www.kauffman.org).

Lehigh’s Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations assists the college community in building mutually beneficial relationships with corporate and foundation partners. For more information, call (610) 758-3892 or visit the office’s website at www.lehigh.edu/partners.

Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2003

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