Maverick Innovation Center on CMU campus encourages new student, community options

By: Kay Rios Tuesday September 8, 2015 0 comments Tags: Grand Junction, Maverick Innovation , Tom Benton, Dana Nunn, Colorado Mesa Univer


GRAND JUNCTION -- Inspiration and innovation are closely intertwined as energy, discovery and new ideas feed on each other. And with the recent opening of the Maverick Innovation Center  at Colorado Mesa University (CMU) in Grand Junction, creative minds now have more opportunities for exploration.Maverick_insideFIXED

“The Center will give students the opportunity to go from a seed idea clear on to commercialization,” says Tom Benton, Grand Junction Economic Partnership vice chair and acting director of the Maverick Innovation Center.

The Center is located in the newly renovated Piñon Hall, which was updated into a blended living-and-learning environment that houses student residences, faculty offices and work space for student inventors and entrepreneurs.

The first floor includes a large open mingling “chill zone” surrounded by several workspace pods. Equipment such as 3D printers will also be available.

“We will have students with a broad range of interests, from chemistry to computer science to engineering,” says Benton. “Any student with an innovative interest can bring it into the Center. They don’t have to be residents of Piñon Hall.

“There’s also a conference room area for organizations that want to come in from the community to hold meetings.”

For example, the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance (CAMA) will hold monthly meetings there.

Benton says the idea is to also encourage community involvement. From within the community, there is a wealth of expertise of local economic development partners that can help students put their ideas into reality, he said.

Through this connection, students will be provided access to successful entrepreneurs, leaders, investors and subject matter experts as well as networking opportunities.  Additionally, students can attend seminars, hear speakers and meet with faculty members and an inventor-in-residence with real world knowledge and experience. 

“We work closely with the local incubator as well as the business community in general and that has provided the partnerships that can make this possible,” says Dana Nunn, the university’s media relations director. “We want to bring in outside expertise, for example, that may be experienced inventors who have been through the patent process numerable times or business people who have a banking background and how to put together the deal. This will be from outside the college community along with support from the faculty.”

The philosophy behind the Center is not new to the university. In fact, Nunn notes that CMU has an existing entrepreneurial program concentration within the business degree.“It is something we have celebrated and enhanced over the past decade," she said.Tom_BentonUSE

“We’ve also offered cross-disciplinary programming that helps students really apply what they are learning and teaches them to apply critical-thinking skills. The Center is the natural outgrowth of that.

“We wanted to find ways to support students who want to pursue different avenues and give them the variety of skills to do that. For example, we may get a brilliant student with a great idea who knows how to design but not how to market or get financing or put a business plan together," Nunn adds. This approach helps them develop those skills by connecting them with people who have different strengths and learn to work together in a team environment.”

This is also a look to the future of the area, Benton says. “If we provide the network, the business connections and the academic knowledge, the hope is that as they bring their concept into reality, they will stay in the area and add to the Mesa County economic development growth,” he said. 

“It’s a grow-your-own concept,” adds Nunn. 

Another part of that, Benton says, is a bit of a shift in the job market paradigm.

“Most folks send students to college to get a good education so they can get a good job," he said. "Our hope is that they will come to college and get the tools to start a company that will provide good jobs.”

Businesses interested in participating in product development and the Center’s program can contact Benton at [email protected].

To view a YouTube video of the Maverick Innovation Center, click here.

Kay Rios

About the Author: Kay Rios

Kay Rios, Ph.D., is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines, including Colorado State Magazine, 25North, Fort Collins Coloradoan, Business World, Fence Post, Triangle Review, Changing Woman, Style Magazine, Northern Colorado Business Report, ArtLinc and the Rocky Mountain Bullhorn.