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Entrepreneurship among top priorities for ISU President Wendy Wintersteen

In 2017, Wendy Wintersteen became Iowa State University’s 16th president and the first woman to ever hold the position. Since then, Wintersteen has made creating and supporting a strong entrepreneurial culture a top priority throughout the university.

“Since Iowa State University’s foundation, we’ve always been focused on science and engineering, and entrepreneurship has always been at the core of that,” Wintersteen said. We’ve always been a place where innovation is occurring but often times its been from our faculty and staff, graduate students.”

Wintersteen wants to change that.

“It’s really how do we expand our culture of innovation and entrepreneurship to better include our undergraduate population,” Wintersteen said. “And I think this is what is new and different about the conversation today.”

A little over a year ago, Wintersteen began having conversations with deans throughout the university about how to best build up opportunities for undergraduate students across all the colleges in the university.

“Having Iowa State be branded as a university that’s focused building in innovation and entrepreneurship to the undergraduate curriculum is a game changer,” Wintersteen said. And I think it will change the opportunities for our students in a significant way. And also change the opportunity for Iowa. I’m excited about where we’re headed and think in five years it will be interesting to see how Iowa State’s reputation has changed.”

Building upon established success

In addition to expanding ISU’s entrepreneurial focus, Wintersteen plans to continue to develop and support previous initiatives that have seen success.

ISU Research Park

The ISU Research Park was founded to provide space and resources needed to advance science-based initiatives. Today, over 80 companies own or rent space in the Research Park. The Research Park works with businesses from a variety of industries to improve economic development in Ames, across the state, and nationwide.

“The Research Park was a big priority for President Leath and continues to be a priority of mine as well,” Wintersteen said.

John Deere recently announced plans to build a 33,000 square-foot facility to use as a design and test lab for agricultural spraying and related technology. In September, Kent Corporation opened the Kent Innovation Center at the Research Park

“These companies come to the park to connect with our faculty and to recruit talent so we’re going to keep having big opportunities out there,” Wintersteen said.

Student Innovation Center

Students from all of Iowa State’s undergraduate colleges will be able to use the new Student Innovation Center, which will provide space for individual and group activities and capstone projects, and for classes and student clubs involved in hands-on learning.

The 140,000-square-foot building is scheduled to open in spring 2020. Nearly half of the funding necessary for the $84 million project will come from state appropriations, with the remainder of the balance made up of private giving.

“We’re really excited about it,” Wintersteen said. “The student innovation is going to be a place where students will come together to create, make and innovate. And now alongside that, we’re building up and bringing forward the academic aspect of that to support our students.”

1 Comment

  • Ben Milne (@bpmilne)
    Posted November 26, 2018 at 10:21 am

    Awesome to see Wendy & ISU expanding the entrepreneurship programs.

Comments are closed.

Entrepreneurship among top priorities for ISU President Wendy Wintersteen | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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