Innovation and entrepreneurship highlighted at Princeton Alumni Day

Feb. 24, 2020

Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering Rodney Priestley gave an overview of the growing innovation landscape at Princeton. Priestley is the inaugural vice dean for innovation and is co-inventor on several patents and co-founder of two startups.

“The overarching goal of these efforts is to broaden the ability of Princeton faculty, students and alumni to help create a better future,” Priestley said. “The University’s fundamental and applied research as well as the programming that we are creating here on campus can have tremendous benefit to society. We owe it to ourselves to take inventions out of the lab and translate them to have an impact.”
Princeton’s innovation and entrepreneurial activities align with the University’s core missions, he said. “We do all this with the mindset that these activities support the University’s research and teaching missions.”

The University created the position of vice dean for innovation to provide academic leadership and help create a unified vision and mission for innovation and entrepreneurship at Princeton, and to foster a greater culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among faculty students and alumni.
Priestley said his new role capitalizes on a groundswell of entrepreneurial activity that is taking place on campus among faculty and students. He cited the increase in the number of patent applications and startup companies that are developing Princeton-led discoveries, as well as increased licensing of University intellectual property and collaborations with industry to address societal challenges.

Princeton’s strengths as a liberal arts institution brings a unique and distinctive advantage to innovation and entrepreneurship, Priestley said. 

“There is a natural merger between what we do in the sciences and engineering and what we do in the liberal arts and the social sciences,” he said. “That is critically important because we are training our engineers and scientists in this context but also we are exposing our artists, writers, and social scientists to what we do in the science and engineering.”

Looking forward, the vision and mission of innovation at Princeton is one that emphasizes inclusion, Priestley said.  “When we think about new programming that we are going to develop here at Princeton, we want to make sure that we leverage the diversity among participants,” he said.
“Innovation essentially is a societal process,” Priestley said, “and if we want to impact all of society, we need to make sure that all of society is involved.”

Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research, contributed to this story. This story appeared as part of a larger article on Alumni Day. Read the original story.