Spotlight on: Duke Faculty Entrepreneurship

It’s Entrepreneurship Week at Duke, and calendars on campus are filled with events like “How to be a Rockstar Startup Employee,” “Building Entrepreneurial Women,” and “Innovation Co-Lab Studio Night.”

And while the idea of entrepreneurship at Duke as the purview of eager, tech-savvy students is an accurate one, there is another version of entrepreneurship at the university that is just as important: faculty research that leads to new technologies, companies, and, of course, jobs,

So what does this mean in the federal context?

Federal officials readily point to the importance of spending federal dollars wisely.  And you would be hard-pressed to hear a speech this campaign season that doesn’t refer to jobs and the economy.  And what lies right in this sweet spot, the intersection of federal dollars and jobs creation?  Faculty who have translated federally-funded research into successful startups.

For Duke researcher Richard Fair, professor of engineering and a former corporate executive, the process started with a DARPA grant from the Defense Department. Fair and a couple of post-docs thought it might be possible to guide tiny droplets of fluid around a tiny device, much the same way electrons move on an integrated circuit chip, basically using droplets like “bits of information.”

After many years of work, additional federal grants, a Duke Start-Up Challenge win, and the hiring of 80 employees, Fair’s technology was bought by a California company in a deal that was publicly reported as being worth “up to $96 million.”

And Fair is not alone. One can find examples throughout Duke of faculty spinning federally-funded research into startups that are successful at not only creating jobs and boosting the economy, but transforming lives and benefiting society.

To learn more about faculty entrepreneurship at Duke (and in the spirit of Entrepreneurship Week!), check out:

And don’t forget to check out this fantastic feature on the entrepreneurial spirit at Duke as a whole – faculty, students, staff, and alumni: Duke’s Entrepreneurial Spirit.