VCU's innovation ecosystem

More than 3,300 full- and part-time faculty at VCU, together, tout a sponsored research portfolio of $275 million. The university also has more than 31,000 students, more than half of whom are interested in starting their own company. With this level of activity, VCU represents a significant pipeline of innovation and entrepreneurial talent for Richmond, Virginia. VCU focuses on two major initiatives or strategies to strengthen that pipeline, in turn aiding the growth of our regional innovation ecosystem.

  • Venture Creation University — Venture Creation University is a universitywide effort to provide each student within our 13 different schools with access to resources along an “entrepreneurial pathway.” It also focuses on developing supportive pathways for our faculty and staff to facilitate commercialization of their research. With these efforts, VCU is focused on transforming thinkers into creators and turning opportunities into economic value. The resulting activity will fuel regional growth and enhance quality of life for RVA and beyond.
  • The Activation Capital — Under Dr. Rao’s leadership as Chairman, the Board of Directors of the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park has transitioned into The Activation Capital. This group aims to leverage the major stakeholders of Central Virginia and coordinate efforts that help us to collaboratively and effectively direct resources toward key areas to benefit our region’s innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

These two strategies are symbiotic. VCU will produce a pipeline of innovation and entrepreneurial talent to fuel our regional ecosystem. The strength of our local ecosystem will in turn help VCU to retain talent and realize the economic benefit of its innovation. Both are key elements to a successful university program.

Our progress

The VCU Venture Creation University strategy challenges faculty from all disciplines to collaborate in building “pathways” that support entrepreneurial activity of our students at various stages — from a student’s initial exposure to entrepreneurship, to educational courses, to programs focused on product validation and company formation. With VCU’s Quest Innovation Fund, we now have funding available for our entrepreneurial students.

Just two years ago, VCU offered only two entrepreneurial programs that attracted 125 students — and these were limited to a select group of students in specific schools. Today, VCU has more than 15 classes and activities available to students, attracting participation from more than 1,700 students across all VCU schools. By working together to build programs along a clearly communicated pathway, students can easily access support and resources. As a university, we can also measure and clearly communicate progress to our regional partners.

It is an exciting time to be at VCU and to be a part of the Richmond region. And our collective commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship is one reason why.