The first chief of Tulane University’s new Innovation Institute will be Kimberly Gramm, currently associate vice president in charge of innovation and entrepreneurship at Texas Tech University, Tulane announced on Wednesday.
Gramm is expected to start this July at the new institute, which Tulane’s President, Michael Fitts, said last week will be Tulane’s answer to similar units that have been set up at other universities, like Ohio State and University of Pennsylvania. The aim is to turn Tulane research and other good ideas by faculty and staff, as well as from the wider community, into viable business ventures.
Where they’ve been successful, such organizations have been able to operate as in-house angel investment funds and accelerators for new businesses that can make significant financial returns for both the university and the institute’s backers.
The institute is being funded initially by donations made by Tulane alumni, including Robert Priddy, the airline executive. Money from his family foundation will fund the Robert L. Priddy Innovation Lab, which will operate as a proof-of-concept unit within the institute.
Also, David Mussafer, who is a member of the Tulane board and runs a multi-billion-dollar hedge fund, and his wife, Marion have contributed. Gramm’s job title will be the Mussafer Chief Innovation and Entrepreneurship Officer, reflecting the source of the funding for her role.
The institute will be housed initially at Thirteen15, the building on Duncan Plaza that was formerly the Warwick Hotel and is directly across from City Hall. It was converted into residences and retail and office space last year and leased entirely to Tulane.
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Later, it will move to the old Charity Hospital building, where Tulane is anchor tenant and taking 350,000 square feet of space when the $350 million renovation of that building is competed.
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Gramm has more than 14 years experience in similar roles and has raised millions of dollars in funding, Tulane said.
Before moving to Texas Tech just over six years ago, Gramm had spent eight years at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, where she was Chief Entrepreneur Officer.
Her education includes an undergraduate degree from South Florida University and an MBA at University of Tampa. She is currently pursuing a PhD at Texas Tech, according to her LinkedIn information.
“The Institute will be an integral part of the Greater New Orleans entrepreneurial ecosystem and I can’t wait to get started,” Gramm said in a statement announcing her appointment. “In my mind, this is the perfect place at the perfect time to seize the moment and make a difference.”
Tulane hasn’t said how much initial funding has been pledged for the institute but Fitts said that the target ultimately is to attract $100 million of investment for new ventures.
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