A Message From Andrew Wooten

by mcjonsey
A Message From Andrew Wooten
Senior Director, Innovation Management and Business Development

At City College, we are striving to develop innovations and an innovative workforce with the potential to bring about strong positive societal change.  Our approach is best captured by the word, co-innovation.  We recognize the limitations of what one institution can achieve on its own.  Successful innovation requires the support of a community of both internal and external stakeholders.  Thus, we seek out partnerships with stakeholders spanning the entire innovation lifecycle from conception to adoption.

Internally, we recognize the wealth of resources which already exist to assist innovators at City College.  These include:

  • Educational course offerings across multiple City College schools and divisions.
  • Multiple makerspaces for prototyping and validating innovations.
  • Innovation support units such as the Zahn Innovation Center, the Technology Commercialization Office, the CUNY I-Corps program, the ASRC Sensor Center for Advanced Technology, CCNY core laboratories, etc.

However, we are challenged by remaining gaps in support at certain critical stages of the innovation development process.  Furthermore, the existing resources and support units lack the high degree of coordination which is required for an optimally performing innovation ecosystem.  Therefore, our strategy revolves around the theme of building out this network of support both internally and externally to create a high-performing innovation ecosystem at City College.  We will do this by:

  • Pulling together the existing internal innovation support resources into a unified and coordinated infrastructure.  
  • Identifying remaining gaps in support and creating new initiatives to close them.
  • Identifying high-potential innovation development projects for more intensive support.
  • Cultivating and executing external stakeholder partnerships where we can provide mutual value and synergistic resources.  Targeted external partners will include corporations, new ventures, investors, governments, foundations, philanthropists, peer institutions, advocacy groups, etc.

We have commenced several initiatives to implement this strategy.  One new program that we are launching is called the President’s Innovation Fund.  This competitive program will identify and provide seed funding to support the institution’s top innovation development projects.  The goal will be to advance these promising innovations to a point where they are able to attract sponsorships from external stakeholders.  We intend to raise additional capital to increase the size of this fund and make it a permanent, sustainable program at City College.

Another initiative that we have been working on with potential donors, is the creation of a new center to be called the Center for Co-Innovation and Medical Technology.  This center will focus on closing the gap in support for the development of medical technology innovations.  It is also designed to serve as an environment for on-the-job training of workers for the medical technology industry.  Innovation projects will be conducted in partnership and with the support of external stakeholders.  The work will be completed by teams of fellows and interns under the supervision of professional staff.  Importantly, we hope to extend this model and approach more broadly across the institution.

We are currently exploring ways to bolster and achieve better coordination across our various makerspaces on campus.  The institution needs workshops where innovations can be prototyped and validated.  However, too often the lack of coordination leads to duplication and underutilization of capabilities.  Underutilized facilities are not sustainable in the long-term.  Our makerspaces should be complementary and sustainable.  We would also like to create a web portal where all makerspace resources are visible in one place.  This site could be utilized for equipment reservations, user training, workshop advertising etc.

Finally, we have recently begun brainstorming with administration and leaders across the various schools and divisions about how we might create a cross-campus innovation/entrepreneurship education and training track at City College.  This track could consolidate the many existing educational offerings in this space and supplement them to create innovation/entrepreneurship certificates and/or minors at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  Students with the foundational skills obtained through this track would be prepared to serve as interns and fellows in partnership with external stakeholders.  The goal would be to create a workforce training pipeline in collaboration with these external stakeholders.  Such a program would greatly benefit students wishing to become candidates for permanent employment with these organizations.  The initiatives outlined above will work to fill remaining gaps in support for innovation at City College and tap into the resources of our co-innovation partners for mutual benefit.  They will achieve ongoing impact towards the City College mission by helping students to advance their careers and by addressing important unmet needs of our local, regional, and global communities.