Image courtesy Miami University

Gregory Crawford, President of Miami University wants to make Greater Cincinnati the top startup hub in the Midwest. We talk to him about what the university is doing toward this goal.

What makes Cincinnati the city to set this goal in?

Crawford:: When I took on the presidency of Miami University, I quickly learned how extraordinary Greater Cincinnati had become for entrepreneurship. Sure, there are great Fortune 500 companies in the city and an impressive infrastructure for startups – but it’s the people who make this entrepreneurial ecosystem so special. It is an ecosystem with talented mentors and inspiring role models everywhere, ready to roll up their sleeves and help one succeed.

What are some of the things you’re doing?

Crawford: At Miami University, our strategies to connect with Greater Cincinnati include The John Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship. A few weeks ago the institute was honored with the NASDAQ Center for Entrepreneurship Excellence Award. It joins a cohort of top university recipients over the years that includes Babson, MIT, Columbia, Cornell, Berkeley, and Stanford.

We’ve begun a new Department of Entrepreneurship in the Farmer School of Business. We provide entrepreneurship competitions and entrepreneurial internship experiences that are connected to the startup ecosystem in Cincinnati. More than 3,200 students from more than 125 majors participated in an entrepreneurship offering at Miami.

We want to collaborate with companies and partners through our faculty. One example is Professor J. Andrew Jones, who teamed up with PsyBio Therapeutics to develop a new and exciting class of molecules to treat mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance dependency. PsyBio is sponsoring research at Miami University over the next two years to further develop a platform technology. And Miami has granted PsyBio a global exclusive license for the technology generated from such research. We hope to expand this collaborative model even more in Southwest Ohio with regional companies.

Lastly, Boldly Creative is a $50 million academic venture capital fund designed to make significant and targeted investments on our campus. Teams of faculty submit proposals for boundary-breaking, transdisciplinary projects in new and emerging areas that are sustainable with growth potential.

You’re no stranger to innovation yourself. Can you talk about your background?

Crawford: I began my career at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in Silicon Valley after graduate school. I caught the entrepreneurship “bug” there. At that time and place, it was all about invention, discovery, innovation, and value creation. That culture and mindset followed me into my academic career.

What other entities does the university work with to encourage business growth and talent attraction?

Crawford: We have developed intentional relationships with REDI Cincinnati; the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, especially the Minority Business Accelerator; Cintrifuse; and CincyTech, among others. The work these organizations do to grow, attract, and retain businesses is vital to the success of Ohio’s economy. We want to turn today’s talent into tomorrow’s business leaders in our region.