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Open Access Applying A 'Mentor-Protégé Approach to Broadening Participation of HBCUs in the National Innovation Network

Innovation is one of the most important drivers of economic growth, yet only 8% of minorities, 12% of women, and < 0.05% of African Americans are recognized as innovators. However, a comprehensive analysis of nearly all doctoral dissertations from 1977 to 2015 shows that although individuals from under-represented minority groups demonstrated greater scientific innovation, their contributions are rarely further adopted compared to equally impactful contributions by majority groups. In this instance "rarely further adopted," as noted by Hofstra et al. (1), means that the "novel contributions by gender and racial minorities are taken up by other scholars at lower rates than novel contributions by gender and racial majorities, and equally impactful contributions of gender and racial minorities are less likely to result in successful scientific careers than for majority groups." Access to the wealth of potential innovations — going largely unnoticed and underutilized — from under-represented minority groups can be achieved, in part, by engaging science and engineering students, faculty, and staff at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in entrepreneurship through the use of the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) curriculum with adaptations to fit the education and research environments at HBCUs. A consortium of three North Carolina universities and the NYC Regional Innovation Network (NYCRIN) I-Corps Node established a partnership developing a specialized Lean LaunchPad training program for HBCU students, faculty, and staff. Implementation followed a three-step train-the-trainers 'mentor-protégé model, where new instructors 'see one, do one, be one' while learning to deliver the curriculum. The overarching goals of this initiative are to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach in broadening participation in I-Corps and mainstreaming the innovation capacities of HBCUs. The authors include instructors from the collaborating institutions, who trained and served as the teaching team for regional and national cohorts. Included are the rationale for creating the program, partnership selection, instructor and team recruitment, best practices for the 'mentor-protégé model, and outcomes for the cohorts. This contribution is a unique opportunity for other faculty to learn from practitioners about the challenges and successes involved in creating such a new multi-institutional entrepreneurship training paradigm.


Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Center of Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, NC, USA 2: Innovation and Applied Research Division, City University of New York, New York, NY, USA 3: Department of Mathematics and Physics, North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC, USA 4: Department of Biochemistry, Biomedical Research Infrastructure Center, Winston-Salem State University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2022

This article was made available online on October 18, 2022 as a Fast Track article with title: "APPLYING A ‘MENTOR-PROTEGE’ APPROACH TO BROADENING PARTICIPATION OF HBCUS IN THE NATIONAL INNOVATION NETWORK".

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  • Technology and Innovation, edited and published by the National Academy of Inventors, is a forum for presenting information encompassing the entire field of applied sciences, with a focus on transformative technology and academic innovation. Regular features of T&I include commentaries contributed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and in-depth profiles of Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors in every issue.

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