Leading New Discoveries

ECU taps executive director for Innovation and New Ventures

Mark Wdowik has been named the inaugural executive director for the newly created Office of Innovation and New Ventures at East Carolina University.

Wdowik joins ECU after a national search led by the university’s Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement.

The Office of Innovation and New Ventures oversees the university’s rapidly expanding efforts to discover, develop and commercialize ideas and inventions cultivated by ECU’s students, faculty and partners.

As the office’s executive director, Wdowik is responsible for leading ECU in its mission to become a national model of how to support student creativity and innovation. This includes growing and maturing the university’s new micro-business program and developing impact investment funds to support innovation and new venture creation at ECU through a philanthropic fund and a potential for a for-profit, equity-based investment fund.

“We want to continue to support a culture of creativity, design, entrepreneurship and innovation at ECU, building upon the great achievements and successes of the Miller School of Entrepreneurship as well as the offices of Community Engagement and Research and Regional Economic Development within REDE,” Wdowik said. “Creating vibrant commercialization and hands-on business development opportunities for students, faculty and partners is an area many universities struggle with. However, that provides ECU a real opportunity to move quickly and excel in this space for the benefit of the people in eastern North Carolina.”

Wdowik is tasked with helping grow the university’s micro-business program. The recently launched program will guide students through four years of entrepreneurship, innovation and business training at ECU, with students creating a business plan before executing their strategy in eastern North Carolina counties during their senior year. The program aims to provide needed services to rural regions, while providing students a systematic, mentor-led commercialization opportunity.

Additionally, Wdowik will explore the potential of an ECU impact investment fund to further support the development and commercialization of ECU’s innovations. Successful investment funds have previously been established at universities throughout the U.S. and abroad, including funds at New York University, the University of California and MIT. In 2016, at least 44 college-focused funds had been established.

“We’re receptive to all new ideas,” Wdowik said. “We’re not here to say ‘No’; we’re here to say ‘Yes, let’s find a way to make it work – whatever the ideas may be.’ That’s the message I want our students, faculty and partners to hear.”

Wdowik joins ECU after a 20-plus-year career in innovation development in higher education. Wdowik has extensive experience with technology transfer, commercialization, economic development, investment funds, industry partnerships, new product development and startups. He also worked in the private sector as the president and CEO of Critical Dimensions Inc., a consulting firm that helped small to large multinational corporations develop business strategies, form strategic partnerships and refine financial strategies.

Wdowik earned both his bachelor’s and master of science degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois. He holds two patents and has most recently served as the chair of the board for the Colorado Venture Capital Authority – managing two $25 million venture capital funds on behalf of the state of Colorado. Likewise, he served as chair of Innosphere – a statewide new business incubator formed in partnership between Colorado State University and the city of Fort Collins.

“As the only university in the state with a medical school, a dental school and a college of engineering, ECU has an unrealized potential to generate intellectual property that can be commercialized,” said Dr. Jay Golden, vice chancellor for REDE. “ECU has taken steps to provide outstanding resources for our students, faculty and partners who are interested in building businesses and helping communities thrive in eastern North Carolina. Mark will continue that trend, while providing even more opportunities for those partnering with ECU to capitalize on their novel ideas.”

Learn more about the Office of New Ventures online at https://rede.ecu.edu/innovation/. Contact Wdowik by email at wdowikm18@ecu.edu or by phone at 252-737-5558.