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Study identifies unmet needs for innovators and entrepreneurs

Release Date: December 1, 2010

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – Lawrence Technological University recently completed a 14-month, $146,000 feasibility study that documented unmet needs of innovators and entrepreneurs in southeast Michigan. The final report, available online, recommends pursuing a Collaborative-based Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CCIE) that uniquely addresses those needs.

More than 1,200 Michigan business owners, investors, entrepreneurs, consultants, business accelerators, employees and displaced workers participated in the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Needs Assessment Survey (I&E Survey). In addition, more than 60 stakeholders provided input, feedback and support throughout the project.

By enlisting more that 20 channel marketing partners to promote the I&E Survey, the research team tapped into the “voice of the customer” – innovators and entrepreneurs – at a grassroots level. The results of the I&E Survey documented that the primary unmet needs of innovators and entrepreneurs in Southeast Michigan include:

  • Access to capital.
  • Securing new customers.
  • Access to market data.
  • Assistance with structured innovation.
  • Assistance with product development/launches.
  • Short-term advocacy with state and local agencies.

The feasibility study was co-authored by Mark Brucki, executive director of economic development and government relations at Lawrence Tech; Assistant Professor Matthew Cole, who directs the psychology program at Lawrence Tech; and College Professor Robert Inskeep of Lawrence Tech’s College of Management.

“Capturing the ‘voice of the entrepreneur’ and formally identifying the unmet needs of Michigan business owners, innovators, entrepreneurs, and displaced workers provides the necessary data to address these needs with effective market-based solutions,” said Brucki, the feasibility study’s director. “The level of interest, involvement, and collaboration on the project has been outstanding.”

The Feasibility Study on a Collaborative-based Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CCIE) was funded by a $70,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and partial match and in-kind funding from the Detroit Regional Chamber, Lawrence Tech and others.

When U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke visited southeast Michigan in September, he was quoted as stating: “I have a lot of friends who are small business owners, and they don’t have time to navigate the federal, state and local bureaucracies. Businesses spend all their time trying to find new customers, trying to meet payroll and keeping their customers happy.” 

According to Brucki, Secretary Locke’s comments parallel what the I&E Survey uncovered and documented.

“The unmet needs identified by Lawrence Tech are exactly what innovators and entrepreneurs face every day,” said Josh Linkner, CEO and managing partner, Detroit Venture Partners, and founder of ePrize. “Now that these needs are documented, we can act on them effectively. Lawrence Tech’s recommendation to pursue a connective network that brings together corporate innovators, stage 2 entrepreneurs, and early stage firms to help each other grow is the type of creativity this region needs.”

The research team and 18 key stakeholders concluded that an early-stage concept for a business-to-business (B2B) collaborative consortium model has the potential to address the needs identified in the I&E Survey. It is the basis for the proposed Collaborative-based Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CCIE).

“Lawrence Tech’s study identifies the value and importance of public-private partnerships to facilitate small business job growth,” said Tammy Carnrike, chief operating officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “The Chamber supports the study’s recommendation to pursue a B2B collaborative consortium to purposefully foster innovation and entrepreneurship to help us move into the 21st century era of collaboration.”

Next steps for Lawrence Tech include establishing a working group and convening stakeholders on the topic of a B2B consortium and its potential structure. According to Brucki, by working collaboratively, Michigan can become a national and international “go to” destination for innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship.

For a copy of the “Feasibility Study for a Collaborative-based Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” click here or visit www.iereport.ltu.edu.

The research team encourages additional feedback on the report. Send comments to iefeedback@ltu.edu.

Lawrence Technological University, ltu.edu, offers more than 100 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs in the Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management. Founded in 1932, the 4,500-student, private university pioneered evening classes and today has a growing number of weekend and online programs. Lawrence Tech’s 102-acre campus is in Southfield, and programs are also offered in Detroit, Lansing, Petoskey and Traverse City. Lawrence Tech also offers programs with partner universities in Canada, Mexico, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.