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Celebration of Innovation on Campus and Off Slated for April

Innovate@BU seeking ideas from faculty, students for weeklong event

To celebrate, and encourage, a thriving culture of creative solutions to real-world problems on the BU campus and across Boston, Innovate@BU is sponsoring its first-ever Innovation Week, beginning April 17. And organizers would like to hear from faculty, students, staff, and alums interested in hosting events and programs.

Innovation Week will range across the campus and the city, with lectures, tours of innovation spaces, and more, to highlight innovative, cross-disciplinary projects that might spark creativity in attendees for their own work. It all culminates with IDEA 2018: The Innovate@BU Conference, a one-day event for current BU students on Saturday, April 21, at the Questrom School of Business. Online registration for the conference opens tomorrow, Tuesday, March 20.

BU Innovation Week Logo

“We figured, let’s celebrate all of the innovation that’s happening across our campus, to inspire and provide a little education and then connect students to new resources and new people,” says Blake Sims, program director, social ventures, for Innovate@BU, the recently launched $20 million initiative designed to foster student creativity and invention.

Among the activities already scheduled for the week are Idea Night at the BUild Lab on Tuesday, April 17, where students can share their ideas and get feedback from an audience of fellow Terriers. The same night, visitors can catch the New Venture Competition Finals, as five BU start-up teams pitch their projects to an audience of students, faculty, and members of the Boston innovation community for a chance to win a total of $25,000 in prizes (a $15,000 grand prize goes to the top team).

On Wednesday, April 18, Wendy Swart Grossman, a Metropolitan College and College of Fine Arts lecturer in arts administration, will lead a tour of the Fort Point, Seaport, and South Station areas of Boston, titled Cultural Entrepreneurship Districts in Boston. The group will visit creative incubators and shared work spaces. That night, CFA graduate students will pitch their ideas for a project they want to launch at the Spark Grant Showcase. The winning team will receive $1,000 to fund their project.

Other events planned for the week include an AR/VR Festival at the BUild Lab, hosted by BU’s new AR/VR Club (augmented reality and virtual reality, for the uninitiated) on Thursday April 19. Companies within the AR/VR industry, such as PTC and Wayfair, will showcase their devices, technology, and career opportunities. Find a detailed list of events here.

“Part of the vision behind BUild Lab and Innovation Week is to emphasize the role of innovation across disciplines,” says Sims. “It’s not just a business school and engineering initiative—it’s a skill set and a mind-set that we’re seeing in every discipline.”

Looking for a few (or many) good groups

Innovate@BU organizers are looking for more groups to participate in Innovation Week and are urging interested students, faculty, staff, and student clubs to contact them. Participation could be as simple as clubs or faculty members opening up existing events and classes that focus on finding new, creative solutions to a wider audience. Or present a social challenge to your class or club and work together to devise a new resolution or host a film that focuses on innovation or an art exhibition showcasing works using new and novel materials. All ideas are welcome.

Johnny Cupcakes founder Johnny Earle

Johnny Cupcakes founder Johnny Earle will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Innovate@BU conference, titled IDEA 2018, on Saturday, April 21.

“We don’t want people to feel like they have to create something new, because what we’re saying to them is, it’s already happening on your campus,” Sims says. “But this is an opportunity to put their efforts behind something that they want to draw a lot of attention to, a great rallying opportunity.”

Find details on how to make your event part of Innovation Week here. You can even apply for a grant up to $500 to support your event or program. Email Sims at bsims@bu.edu with any questions.

Innovate@BU is designed to give all students University-wide opportunities in creative problem-solving and hands-on innovation, and includes the creation of the BUild Lab: IDG Capital Student Innovation Center.

The IDEA 2018 Conference (the acronym stands for Innovation and Design through Education and Activation) on April 21 will feature a keynote address by Johnny Earle, founder of the cutting-edge T-shirt brand Johnny Cupcakes. Earle was named America’s #1 Young Entrepreneur by BusinessWeek for his innovative business and marketing methods. He began the business in the trunk of his car, and today has a solid customer base. He will share his ideas for getting any small business, passion, or idea off the ground. Only 150 all-day tickets are available, with 150 more available for those who want to attend just the keynote and the networking mixer that follows.

The conference begins with lightning talks from four innovators, two of them BU students: Remy Usman (CFA’20), a founder of Charcoal magazine, which focuses on student artists of color, and Brian Woerner, (Questrom’17, GRS’18), chief operating officer of Follow the Honey, Inc., a Cambridge-based store and honey importer that works with indigenous beekeepers around the world to get them a fair price for their sweet product.


There will also be breakout sessions on “Where do ideas come from?” and “Is it a good idea?” as well as workshops on techniques for putting ideas into action, including funding, structuring a team, and finding resources in Boston and beyond.

“Our goal is to facilitate more of those collaborative conversations, to bring together different groups of students and alums and faculty and staff to work on real-world projects,” Sims says.

IDEA 2018 tickets are available here starting tomorrow, Tuesday, March 20. The tickets are free; a $15 registration fee is required, but will be refunded as soon as a ticket holder checks in at the conference. All-day tickets include all workshops, speaker sessions, keynote speech, and the networking mixer, as well as breakfast and lunch. Afternoon tickets include access to three afternoon sessions, keynote, and mixer. Find the Innovation Week schedule here. Many events are free and open to all attendees, but some may require RSVP or an admission charge.

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Joel Brown, Staff Writer for BU Today, Bostonia and BU Today Marketing & Communications
Joel Brown

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@bu.edu.

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