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College of Engineering and Computing

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Filling the technology, innovation gap

M.S. in Entrepreneurial Engineering bridges gap between technology and business

Surveys from industry leaders about new hires adapting to the workplace reveal a common concern: Engineering and other STEM students arrive at the workplace prepared in the science and technical fields, but they often don’t understand what it means to commercialize a product. Meanwhile, business students are well versed in what it takes to introduce a new product to the market, but they often don’t grasp the technology necessary to create it.

“So, there was this gap,” says Ehsan Jabbarzadeh, associate professor of chemical and biomedical engineering and director of entrepreneurship at the College of Engineering and Computing.

To help fill in that gap, Carolina has created a master’s degree in technology innovation and entrepreneurial engineering that is a collaboration between the College of Engineering and Computing and the Darla Moore School of Business. Faculty from both schools teach and mentor students in the one-year graduate program that prepares students with the skills needed to assess whether a concept is both technically viable and potentially profitable. It takes students through the entrepreneurship and start-up process, with an understanding of technology development, marketplace customer discovery and commercialization.

“Things happen when you combine passion and collaboration. Impossible things become possible.”

“What CEOs are talking about, the new generation of the workforce have to be problem solvers, but they also have to understand what it takes to communicate with customers. At the end of the day, every company has a product somebody’s buying. And that knowledge should be engrained in our education,” Jabbarzadeh says.

Jabbarzadeh said the new degree program emerged from discussions that began about two years ago to find avenues to combine the two disciplines. The program takes students through the full process of commercializing a product — from prototyping to creating and launching a new venture to customer delivery. Course offerings include technology feasibility analysis, entrepreneurial finance, launching new ventures and engineering prototyping.

The program culminates in a summer innovation emersion module in the form of an internship, a workshop or a new start-up.

The first cohort of 10 students, who started this fall, features a mix of new graduates and others already in the workforce, including GE and Boeing employees. Classes are offered late in the day so working students can participate. An additional 14 additional students will join the master’s program this spring.

“We don’t claim to create entrepreneurs. I tell the students you don’t leave this program as a Bill Gates,” he says. “What you learn are the tool kits that you have to know to launch a product. Whether you’re a start-up, a large company or small company, the same tool kits are handy.”

He said students who are already in the workforce say they wish they had learned these lessons earlier, believing it would have allowed them to better customize their career plans. Recent college grads say they are covering topics they had never thought about before enrolling in the program.

Jabbarzadeh says for a program such as this to be successful, deans and faculty must be accommodating and pro-collaboration. 

“In each college, you need to have passionate people who want to collaborate,” he says. “Things happen when you combine passion and collaboration. Impossible things become possible.”

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