Contributed by Dr. Julie Haack, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Oregon

 

Walking into the innovation hub at 942 Olive is like walking into another world. The rough open interior looks more like a hip modern design studio than a university building. The mix of open work areas and exhibition spaces surrounding digital and analog prototyping labs with materials characterization capabilities stirs the imagination. This is the home for a bold new program that brings together artists, designers, chemists and entrepreneurs to create and launch world changing products and businesses. The goal is to create an intellectual maker space that aspires to be the birthplace and launch pad for the next generation of green businesses.

 

Highlighting innovation, partnerships, and sustainability, the University of Oregon (UO) sponsored hub currently houses three core groups, the UO Product Design Launch Lab, the Eugene branch of the Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network (RAIN) and the Tyler Invention Greenhouse. The 12,800-squarefoot facility is designed to expose and celebrate the “process of making” used by designers, chemists and entrepreneurs so that it can become part of a creative ecosystem that is accessible to a broader community. Opportunities to house “experts in residence” will catalyze the infusion of new ideas and strategies into the growing interdisciplinary community.

 

Successful inventors constantly engage in activities that build knowledge and experience around solving problems. Opportunities for students to participate in these kinds of activities are often limited to short, one-off experiences like those associated with a specific course or an annual competition. The Tyler Invention Greenhouse, in collaboration with the Product Design programs and RAIN, provides an alternative approach by creating opportunities for continuous engagement, where the tools of green chemistry and life cycle thinking are infused throughout the creative process.

 

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The Tyler Invention Greenhouse builds upon the UO’s strengths in sustainability, green chemistry, design and innovation to accelerate the development and enhance market success for greener products. Some of the most expensive and frustrating failures occur when our products or processes unintentionally have an adverse impact human health and the environment. By integrating the knowledge and experience of a diverse community of creative individuals, at the point of invention, and addressing these challenges in a systematic way, one has the potential to significantly improve the success and accelerate the adoption of sustainable products into the market.

 

Another member of the hub, Oregon RAIN provides training, advisory services and networking support to early growth stage companies. Currently there are nine companies participating in an intensive 16-week training program that attracts a robust community of mentors and local entrepreneurs into the space to share their experience and provide advice and connections. Add to that mix a vibrant, creative community of local artists and UO design students who share a passion for sustainability and you have the opportunity to connect design and innovation to the science of sustainability.

 

On any given day the place is alive with conversation. During a single visit to the facility you can engage with graduate students in STEM disciplines working through Lens of the Market SM curriculum that provides a rapid introduction to the vocabulary, skills and tools for scientists to evaluate the market potential of their research. Alternatively you can help students refine their product ideas and prototypes by participating in an interdisciplinary design critique with students and faculty from across campus. These types of interactions not only build skills around innovation and product design but they also provide a unique environment for professional development.

 

Built in the heart of downtown Eugene, the facility strengthens the cluster of creative industries and technology initiatives within the downtown core. The hub at 942 Olive provides a foundation for a holistic and integrated approach to sustainability that celebrates collaboration and inclusion and invests in the education and training of this community so that it can actively design a more sustainable future. In addition to connecting to the city, the hub is a conduit to the region and the world and participants are actively seeking external collaborators. Please contact Julie Haack if you are interested in adding your perspective and experience to the mix.

 

The three million dollar project was funded through a combination of funds from the Oregon state legislature, the University of Oregon and the Alice C. Tyler Perpetual Trust. For more information on 942 Olive, visit the UO's Innovate website.

 

 

 

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