Innovation Meets Fun at MSU: VIPP Hosts Science and Technology Entrepreneurship IVLP Project

An international group of leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, and innovators in the science and technology development industry enjoyed what MSU has to offer.

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Published: Friday, 17 Mar 2023 Author: Teresa Svec, Visiting International Professional Program

Thirteen participants from 13 countries came together at Michigan State University on March 8 – 11, 2023 for the International Visitor Leadership Program “Science and Technology Entrepreneurship.” The program was organized by the Institute of International Education (IIE)  and was hosted by VIPP in its capacity as the Michigan Council on Citizen Diplomacy. The East Lansing and Lansing program was designed and led by VIPP Program Coordinator Dr. Saroopa Taylor who brought together the local and the international group of leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, and innovators in the science and technology development industry. Members of this unique group exchanged ideas and expertise while exploring the themes of fostering entrepreneurship and supporting innovation, promoting science and technology start-ups, the adoption of innovation into diverse sectors, and the role of higher education in advancing technologies. They enjoyed meeting with a variety of MSU and community experts and innovators, experiencing MSU’s facilities and labs, hands-on demonstrations of technologies, and local site-visits. Despite differences in professional background, nationality, and culture, they shared a common interest in the application of innovation and forward-thinking strategies, which served as a framework for their experiences during the program.

Burgess Group Picture.jpgThe program kicked-off with a visit to the MSU Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation for an interactive round table discussion with presenters Dr. Lori Fischer, Director of Operations, and Ken Szymusiak, Managing Director of Academic Programs. The discussion featured The Hatch, a component of the Burgess Institute designed as a coworking incubator space for MSU students. As a special treat, the delegates got to taste Protein Pints ice cream, co-founded at The Hatch by students and collegiate athletes Paul Reiss and Michael Meadows. Continuing a busy morning, their next stop was the MSU Innovation Center for a facility tour and presentation by Project Manager Gabbi Strom about how the center brings together entrepreneurs in the community to build companies and projects.

After enjoying some of what downtown East Lansing has to offer during lunch break, the delegates rounded off the day’s official program with a site visit to PhotosynQ in East Lansing. PhotosynQ is a company that was PhotosynQ session10_Testing MultispeQ.jpgcreated out of a need for an accessible scientific instrument for plant phenotyping within the research and farming communities. It was co-founded by two MSU faculty members, Professor of Photosynthesis and Bioenergetics David Kramer, and Dr Sebastian Kuhlgert,  a post doctoral associate at the Kramer Lab/Plant Research Lab together with a third co-founder, serial entrepreneur and now-CEO Prabode Weebadde. The company provides a plant phenotyping platform to over 8000 users across the globe to provide technology to protect crop yields and strengthen global food security.

The group enjoyed a aPhotosynQ session5.jpgpresentation given by Prabode, who shared how his team used uncommon ways to grow PhotosynQ to be a worldwide leader in crop performance data collection and analysis by developing state-of-the-art, easy-to-use instruments to empower precision farming. During the visit the participants also had fun trying out several cutting-edge devices including MultispeQ and Avidhrt, as well as playing a unique version of an interactive quiz game using the Kahoot platform to win prizes.

Fortuitously, the delegates were invited to attend the MSU Research Foundation’s Networking Hour that very evening at the VanCamp Incubator, where they enjoyed meeting with members, staff, and founders, as well as exploring the lab. The participants were impressed with the facilities and their interactions during the event. One delegate, Mr. Witness Tigere Ukama, a lecturer of Technology and Entrepreneurship at the Harare Institute of Technology in Zimbabwe said of the experience “More sessions like this [are] needed. The environment on its own forces you to interact 100%.”

Workshop1.jpgThe delegates were ready for more learning and fun the next day, starting with the Design Thinking Workshop led by Dr. Hashini Galhena, a visiting assistant professor at MSU and the Director of Innovation and Design at Equitable Financial Services. The workshop introduced the principles of human-centered design and its importance in business development. During the workshop the participants were able to analyze a real-world case study related to science and technology entrepreneurship and apply design thinking techniques to develop innovative solutions.

Their final stop was a site visit to the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), the economic development organization LEAP Group picture.jpgrepresenting the tri-county region of Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Joe Carr, Vice President of the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Team at LEAP discussed the partnership’s work to develop new economic drivers to replace traditional industries in the region, as well as LEAP’s work to support local entrepreneurs and start-ups and create equitable economic development programs. The group was very engaged and enjoyed asking questions and brainstorming ways to apply their new knowledge to their own work in their respective home countries.  

While the focus of the program was on science, technology, and innovation, a very special and unexpected moment took place in the International Center at the Butterfly Garden exhibit. The delegates were lucky enough to meet the Butterfly Garden artist, Zahrah Resh, while she was working on installing the garden. Resh appreciated the encounter with the international delegation and shared that she herself was once a visiting scholar at MSU! It was a touching way to add an artistic and human element to a technology-focused project, and showed the visitors first-hand the diversity of the Spartan experience and what it means to have Spartan spirit. In the end, the delegates found their visit to Michigan State University to be a rewarding experience, both professionally and personally, and they took home not just innovative ideas, but also great memories, and friendships.

Learn more about the International Visitor Leadership Program at vipp.msu.edu/ivlp.

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