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Avenues to NUvention and Beyond

The NUvention program, launched in 2007 with a focus on medical innovation, became an instant staple in Northwestern’s mission to further student interest in entrepreneurship. Buoyed by its first-year success, the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation quickly expanded NUvention to include tracks designed to suit various entrepreneurial interests. NUvention now offers nine engaging tracks for driven PhD, Post-docs, graduate students and exceptionally qualified undergraduates including Medical, Transportation, Web + Media, Energy, and Arts.

All NUvention courses reflect the rigorous nature of the business world. At the start of each course, students form teams. Typically, these teams are diverse and consist of five or six members from any of Northwestern’s six schools. Throughout the next 10 weeks of the program, each team works to conceptualize a marketable product, design functional prototypes and pitch their idea to a board of judges from notable companies brought to the program to provide expert feedback.

NUvention course applications are open to all students able to demonstrate sufficient experience with the entrepreneurial topics emphasized in the program. Although prior entrepreneurship experience is not required for admission and success in the program, students interested in applying to NUvention are encouraged to take courses in entrepreneurship prior to pursuing the program.

The Farley Center offers several undergraduate entrepreneurship courses for the prospective innovator that can provide the valuable business exposure students need. Students interested in learning more about business strategies and effective monetization may take the following:

ENTREP/IEMS 225 - Principles of Entrepreneurship - An introductory but rigorous core course that qualifies for the Undergraduate Certification in Entrepreneurship. This course is recommended for sophomore and juniors. The Fall 2017 section will be taught by veteran entrepreneur Verinder Syal.

ENTREP/IEMS 325 - Engineering Entrepreneurship - Another core course in the certification program, ENTREP 325 explores the technical aspects of entrepreneurship and of forming a startup. This course is also recommended for sophomore and junior undergraduates.

ENTREP 395 - Special Topics in Entrepreneurship - These courses span a range of specialized topics related to entrepreneurship, from leadership and ethics in business to creating a brand, to accounting for startups.

MEM 419 - Technical Entrepreneurship - MEM 419 presents challenges associated with creating a technology startup and places emphasis on how to tackle those challenges. This class is taught by Farley Director, Mike Marasco and is open to all graduate students; undergraduates may apply with permission.

NUvention’s student teams emerge from their one-quarter courses (or two, in the case of NUvention: Medical and NUvention: Web + Media) with a product that attracts the attention of the Northwestern community and the world beyond. In 2012, students who were enrolled in NUvention: Energy created SiNode Systems, a company specializing in next generation lithium-ion batteries with applications that could range from personal electronics to electric vehicles. SiNode went on to win a four million dollar contract from The United States Advanced Battery Consortium LLC, a collaborative organization of FCA US LLC, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors. In 2014, Northwestern graduates and NUvention: Energy alums Garrett Ullom and Nikhil Sethi, co-founders of Adaptly, created the marketing platforms for social media giants Facebook and Twitter. Last year, Hazel Technologies, a student startup that engineered a product to extend the shelf-life of perishable foods, won the prestigious 500,000 dollar top-prize during Chicago’s annual Clean Energy Trust competition.

Despite the success of many of NUvention’s student startups, NUvention doesn’t mandate that its students create successful company during their enrollment. Rather, NUvention is structured to equip students with the skills most essential for the budding entrepreneur and stresses the importance of failure and its value in spurring innovation. As outlined in Farley Center’s mission statement, the ultimate goal of NUvention is to “augment and sharpen the cognitive skill set of students.” Profitable companies are a by-product of the course work. The mindset of leaders and innovators that NUvention students cultivate through the process of creating and marketing a business is an invaluable reward of the program and one that all driven students can expect to leave having attained. 

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