A student stands at the front of a classroom and pitches a business venture

Reimagining Innovation

A new initiative on campus spearheaded by the Lundquist College of Business and the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship is reimagining how we encourage, support—and importantly, fund—student-led innovation and entrepreneurship ventures and projects.

Known as the Oregon Innovation Challenge, the program launched in January and is off to a fast start.

“We’ve partnered and leveraged the ideas and passion of students to create the Oregon Innovation Challenge, and the reception across campus has been extraordinary. Students are eager for this type of support,” said Jeff Sorensen, director of the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship.

More than 200 teams have answered the call, bringing everything from ideas for how to improve antibiotic effectiveness to optimizing internal communications for athletic teams.

Open to all University of Oregon students, regardless of major or class standing, the Oregon Innovation Challenge has pathways to engage students no matter the stage of their venture—from idea to emerging to currently in business.

“As a product design major, I spend many hours in the studio, so participating in OIC was a refreshing way to experience creativity in a new way,” said participant Izzy Shilakes. “Throughout the program, I had the opportunity to connect with students from diverse backgrounds who perceive the world in different ways. This provided a unique perspective and gave rise to innovative ideas that I might not have thought of otherwise.”

During the 12-week program, students participate in workshops, avail themselves of office hours with Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship staff, and get time with alumni mentors.

“We believe emerging entrepreneurs are more likely to persist in spite of setbacks when surrounded by a group of peers with similar goals,” said Sorensen.

Starting in January, students have met weekly, completed three workshops, and have logged 150 office hours with entrepreneurship center staff.

Multiple $10,000 grants are to be awarded at the end of the 12 weeks. Those teams commit to join an eight-week summer fellowship cohort, which includes continuing mentorship and training.

“We’ve been so impressed by the quality of student projects—after 12 weeks of work, many of them have a compelling case for funding, and we want to support as many of those students as possible,” explained Sorensen, who, prior to his role at the University of Oregon, headed up the largest student innovation incubator in the country at the University of Michigan.

Keep up with student projects and developments as the Oregon Innovation Challenge progresses by following UO Business on LinkedIn and Instagram.

—AnneMarie Knepper-Sjoblom ’05, Lundquist College Communications