Austin forum stresses importance of innovation among students

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Dr. Bob Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet and UT Cockrell School of Engineering professor, answers a question at a lecture held at the AT&T Center last night. Dr. Metcalfe was there to discuss Startups, giving students useful advice concerning the creation of innovative companies.

Photo Credit: Andrea Macias-Jimenez | Daily Texan Staff

Innovations that start at UT are central to the way the University changes the world, said engineering professor Robert Metcalfe. Through University startup companies these innovations can materialize to have maximum impact, he said.

Tuesday, the Austin Forum on Science, Technology and Society hosted Metcalfe, who spoke about innovating with University startups.

“The Austin Forum is a premier monthly speaker series on the topic of science and technology,” said Faith Singer-Villalobos, spokesperson for the Texas Advanced Computing Center. “All of our speakers are thought leaders in their fields. We have a wide range of subject matter, experts and topics.”

The forum has hosted a variety of speaker topics ranging from gaming to a clean energy economy, she said.

“[We chose the issue of University startups because] the foundation of this topic is innovation, which UT endeavors to foster across the University,” Singer-Villalobos said.

Metcalfe is a new professor of innovation at the University. He has worked as an engineer, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, journalist and now a professor. He received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2003 for inventing Ethernet, today’s local networking standard.

“Innovation is what happens after invention and discovery,” Metcalfe said. “Invention is carefully cultivated and tended, but innovation grows like a weed.”

He said that networking is especially crucial in establishing successful startups.

“[Some of the main factors in university startups] are innovation and the lifecycle of startups, startup competition, university research, students and successful networking.”

Metcalfe listed what he considered the six species of innovators: research professors, graduating students, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, strategic partners and early adopters.

“Universities are the best bet for innovation,” he said. “It is important to continue combining teaching and research at UT [for continued success].”

Metcalfe discussed the position of UT as a top 10 research university in the U.S. He said this was due in part to the endowment, the scale of research and also the commitment to research at UT.

Catherine Polito, executive director of the Center for Lifelong Engineering Education, and the CLEE encouraged student attendance of the forum. She said that Metcalfe teaches a one semester class on startups and that CLEE sponsored the event and publicized it with engineering students on campus.

“This is the group that [Metcalfe’s] message really resonates with,” she said about UT graduate students.

Metcalfe said he considered students to be the vehicles for the innovation that he discussed.

“Students already come here with great knowledge and ability,” he said. “At UT, we cultivate the talents that they already possess.”

Printed on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 as: Forum discusses innovating within University startups