Florida Polytechnic University’s entrepreneurship program was recognized internationally with its selection as a finalist by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers (GCEC). The program was selected for its work creating the Phoenix Nest, a pioneering software system designed to support students throughout the innovation process in universities, resulting in a new level of interdisciplinary support.
The program is in the running for the Exceptional Activities in Entrepreneurship Across Disciplines award and is up against institutions such as Harvard University, Penn State University, and Florida State University. The winner will be announced at GCEC’s annual event on Sept. 28 in Stockholm, Sweden.
“Florida Poly was created to do something different. As a brand-new school, we’ve had the chance to re-envision processes and do something no one else has done,” said Justin Heacock, the University’s entrepreneurship coordinator. “I would love for Florida Poly to be recognized as an innovative place where people see us as producing great graduates and startups that change the Florida economy.”
Heacock said the international event and awards ceremony is focused primarily on entrepreneurship program operations and execution, something at the heart of Phoenix Nest.
“For us, this program is truly the beginning of an interconnected innovation culture that could be a new way of supporting students on college campuses and that’s something I would love for Florida Poly to be recognized for,” Heacock said. “I see our students as digital natives and if connected and supported online correctly, they would come out with more ideas than any university, and that’s something I think we can do with the software.”
Heacock said the Phoenix Nest entrepreneurship and innovation system is a vast departure from traditional entrepreneurship programs that are typically siloed within university departments or colleges and support only small numbers of students through their business incubator. Florida Poly’s all-digital system has no limit to how large it can grow as it seeks to capture and support every student innovation idea.
“Currently we have 30% of the students on campus already signed up, which is an unprecedented number,” Heacock said. “You look at most other universities and their entrepreneurship programs struggle to reach 1% of the student body.”
He said the program launched officially this semester and currently has about 15 student startups. As the program matures past the concept stage, students can begin building prototypes, move into the pilot phase, and eventually seek out paying users.
“It’s been received really well. We introduced it at freshmen orientation and they loved it – I had students coming up to me for weeks after that saying ‘You’re the entrepreneurship guy! I have an idea,’” Heacock said.
“The fact that you have an entire incoming class resonating with that really speaks volumes for the students we attract to Florida Poly.”
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