U of A at Pine Bluff and I³R Partner to Stimulate Entrepreneurship and Innovation | University of Arkansas

The Department of Human Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff announced it was recently awarded a Course and Program Grant from VentureWell. Meredith Adkins, assistant research professor at the Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research at the U of A (I³R), has collaborated as a co-investigator on the project, “Using Entrepreneurship Curriculum and Strategic Partnerships to Empower Students to Address Food and Nutrition Equity.”

VentureWell is a grantmaking organization that cultivates a pipeline of inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs driven to solve the world’s biggest challenges and to create lasting impact. The $28,936 award’s purpose is to educate and empower the next generation of diverse food business and food tech entrepreneurs.

Under the leadership of principal investigator and department chair Marilyn Bailey, Adkins will assist Kimberly Haynie, the lead instructor, in developing a course and certificate program in Food and Nutrition Entrepreneurship, open to students of all majors at UAPB beginning fall 2024. One of the intentions of the initiative is to foster a partnership between UAPB and I³R to strengthen the innovation ecosystem and increase access to mentorship and resources for entrepreneurs in Pine Bluff, who have fewer resources than the entrepreneurs in Northwest Arkansas.

Adkins received a sub-award to advise on course development and support relationship development with Northwest Arkansas and across all of Arkansas. She will also guest lecture and assist with the guest speakers and panel discussions in addition to serving as an additional course consultant for the student project teams.

One of only 19 projects selected for funding from a competitive pool of applicants, the UAPB-I³R collaboration leverages the institute’s strength in convergence research and its effective grant preparation resources. Adkins, who leads the Institute’s Cultivate IQ project, which was recently awarded an additional $5 million from the National Science Foundation Convergence Accelerator program, has a proven record of innovation in research in addition to bringing experts together from various disciplines across multiple land-grant universities.

“The Institute is actively developing partnerships across the state of Arkansas and beyond to stimulate economic growth and improve the health and well-being of Arkansans. Through this exciting new collaboration, we will share our model of convergence research (involving academic, industry, government and non-profit sectors) for societal impact and expose students to innovation curriculum for developing scalable solutions for community challenges,” Adkins said.

Through the institute’s Grand Challenge of Integrative Health, she aims to leverage its resources and capabilities to enhance capacity and cultivate innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems in underserved regions. As the project details, this work includes partnering with minority serving institutions, such as historically Black colleges and universities, like UAPB, with student populations that have been excluded and underrepresented in STEM-based economic development.

“We hope this partnership with UAPB, another land-grant university in Arkansas, will be the first of many, as our collaborative work directly fulfils I³R’s mission to support entrepreneurship and develop innovative solutions that drive the state’s economy,” said Ranu Jung, associate vice chancellor, distinguished professor of biomedical engineering and I³R founding executive director.

About the Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research (I³R): Established through a transformational gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, the University of Arkansas Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research pioneers solutions to wicked problems through convergence research across academic, industry, government, and non-profit sectors to make a positive societal impact by creating and deploying innovations at scale. Learn more at i3r.uark.edu.

Elizabeth Muscari, communications manager

Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research


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