On November 8 & 9. the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez (UPRM) will host the HSI Conference: Accelerating the Impact of HSI STEM Education and Research on Innovation Ecosystems, in cooperation with other HSIs, as well as partners in the commercial economy.The conference will provide input to NSF on how to expand active learning opportunities for undergraduate populations at HSIs by linking these students with mentors from both the commercial and knowledge economies. The new NSF HSI program:
Will focus on enhancing the quality of undergraduate STEM education at HSIs and seeks to increase the retention and graduation rates of students pursuing associate or baccalaureate degrees in STEM.
The 2-day conference, in addition to pre- and post-conference meet-ups, will bring together an estimated 150 participants that include HSI education and research leaders, current and potential entrepreneurs, corporate and industry representatives, university administrators, invited guest speakers, undergraduate students, and NSF representatives to discuss emerging effective strategies for encouraging links between university and industry, with the important component of undergraduate involvement. The activities will provide ample opportunity for interaction among participants of all backgrounds and levels, including invited undergraduate students, during poster sessions, panel discussions, and invited presentations. This interaction is essential to fully understand the challenges of establishing partnerships between university and industry, and how innovation ecosystems can improve STEM education at HSIs. The conference outcome will be a blueprint for developing innovation ecosystems at HSIs and the establishment of a regional hub for this initiative.
“The innovation ecosystem comprises two distinct, but largely separated economies, the knowledge economy, which is driven by fundamental research, and the commercial economy, which is driven by the marketplace”, as described by Jackson (What is an innovation Ecosystem?, 2012). The knowledge economy is the comfort zone of Universities, where professors act as mentors to students in active learning activities such as undergraduate research projects and other problem solving approaches. These active learning efforts result in many success stories, but are often limited to the best students. Professors just simply do not have the time to serve as mentors to all students. Innovation ecosystems provide new opportunities.
Innovation ecosystems where the knowledge and commercial economies come together:
1. Increase the number of available mentors for undergraduate students in STEM.
2. Increase the impact of HSI universities as each innovation ecosystem is focused on a particular technology or field of study.
3. Create opportunities for STEM students to work together with students from the School of Business.
Innovation ecosystems are now emerging as collaborative spaces between innovators to develop new entrepreneurs, the E-ship Network at UPRM is an example. These collaborative workspaces could also be developed in STEM, creating new opportunities for students.