The U.S. election and the incoming administration’s harsh immigration stance may change things moving forward, but universities seeking to boost their technology commercialization efforts can still set up global entrepreneur-in-residence programs that facilitate foreign-born innovators’ entry into the U.S., where they can start new companies to feed economic development.
Though global EIR programs tend to run alongside existing tech transfer offices, not through them, TTO executives who are waving goodbye to foreign students with good start-up ideas due to visa expiration may want to examine the benefits of such a program.
The basic concept is designed to get around limits on H1-B visas, for which universities are exempted from caps. The workaround requires the visa holder to work at least 20 hours as a university employee, and a growing number of schools are hiring foreign start-up founders as part-time EIRs so they can build their companies locally, where they got their degrees.
The programs have become popular as universities have “expanded their core mission beyond basic academics through developing tech transfer offices to promote research commercialization,” says Craig Montouri, executive director and co-founder of the Global EIR Coalition. The Coalition is a 501(c)3 organization that supports universities in setting up and running global EIR mentor programs — and that connects immigrant inventors with those programs. “Similarly, in recent years, centers for entrepreneurship have become ubiquitous and demonstrate a similar expansion of the academic mission in parallel with the traditional tech transfer mission to drive economic development, in the form of job creation via the university’s role as an innovation hub,” Montouri says.
The main point to note about global EIR programs, he adds, is that they are designed to help “add a new complementary model to the traditional tech transfer approach that positions the universities as innovation hubs, driving broad economic development outcomes while generating value around the human capital concentrated in the university.” It helps, he adds, that GEIRs “also drive forward many other emerging university initiatives in promoting entrepreneurship and expanding the entrepreneurial and other professional opportunities in the innovation economy they offer their students.”
A GEIR program is up and running at the University of Alaska, reports Isaac Vanderburg, director of the Alaska Small Business Development Center, which is hosted by UA Anchorage within its Business Enterprise Institute. “Through the program, UA will attract international talent to the campus and local community,” he explains. “The EIR will mentor students, faculty and staff across various disciplines on a range of projects that require an entrepreneurial mindset, and will guest lecture in classrooms and community forums, teach workshops and judge business competitions.” As importantly, he adds, the program “enables entrepreneurs to launch or grow their start-ups in Alaska while working part-time at the university to assist with local entrepreneurship ecosystem development.”
A detailed article on a variety of Global EIR programs appears in the December issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the entire article, along with the publication’s 9+ year archive of best practices and success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE.