Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Introducing the College of Agriculture’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Ambassador Cohort

Purdue Agriculture has named 12 faculty members and a fellow representing nine out of eleven departments as Innovation & Entrepreneurship Ambassadors, a new program of the University’s I&E Fellowship initiative.

Purdue's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship created the ambassador program to provide more advocates and mentors for innovation, entrepreneurship, and research commercialization. Faculty members will have renewable three-year terms. Each college at Purdue has been expected to name a Fellow and a team of Ambassadors, with Christian Butzke (College of Agriculture), Yung Lu (College of Engineering), Natalie Duval-Couetil (Polytechnic Institute), Zhan Pang (Krannert School of Management), and Sandra Sydnor (College of Health and Human Sciences) being the first I&E Fellows that have been appointed.

“The Ambassador program is an essential part of Purdue’s ecosystem for innovation,” said Matthew Lynall, the Avrum and Joyce Gray Director of the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, which also manages Purdue’s co-leadership of the recently announced $15M Great Lakes Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Hub. The hub — one of five across the country — is part of a continuing effort by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to evolve the I-Corps program, which trains scientists and engineers to carry their promising ideas and technologies beyond the university and into the marketplace to benefit society.

The main purpose of the ambassador program is to encourage students, staff, faculty, and alumni to think about moving their innovations from research laboratories to markets and make real-world impacts.  “The ambassadors can do many things, such as identifying people who could benefit from Purdue’s entrepreneurial resources, mentoring potential entrepreneurs, connecting entrepreneurs with students, faculty, staff and alumni,” said Arnold Chen, managing director of the Burton D. Morgan Center.

Bernie Engel, senior associate dean for Agricultural Research and Graduate Education (ARGE), added, "Agricultural entrepreneurship is a priority for Purdue Agriculture."

In 2021, the College appointed Christian Butzke, a professor in the Department of Food Science, as its first Innovation & Entrepreneurship Fellow.  Butzke is a graduate of the Burton D. Morgan Center's Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy and LEAD21, and he is co-founder and chief enologist of the Purdue-based start-up VinSense, a software company that provides vineyard management decision-support through real-time, high-resolution functional soil maps, modeling of soil and climate effects on fruit composition and quality, and powerful big data analytics and visualization tools.  Butzke will coordinate the ambassadors’ activities in the College as they will serve as the go-to point for their departmental colleagues and students.  He selected the initial cohort of I&E Ambassadors focused on five out of eleven departments to support the College of Agriculture's strategic mission and vision in alignment with the University's Next Moves initiatives, and to create a sustainable pipeline of ag tech intellectual property (IP).  His goal is to systematically encourage, foster, and mentor a culture, spirit and mindset of entrepreneurship and research commercialization among his fellow faculty members, and a new generation of the College's post-docs, graduate and undergraduate students, to grow the number of disclosed and patented, research-based Purdue IP, and the number of startups, inventions, and licenses.  Butzke concluded, "All this will be pursued within the context of the land-grant university's mission to serve the greater good of society, and to benefit the people of Indiana, and beyond.  These voluntary I&E efforts are intended to help all motivated scientists achieve their personal goals, while creating evidence for the deep societal impact of their research."