University of Missouri (1)

The UMKC Foundation is pleased to announce a $5 million pledge from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to support a new Free Enterprise Center on UMKC’s Volker Campus.

The $14.8 million product development hub — to be used by entrepreneurs, local industry, and high school and college students — is a shot in the arm for entrepreneurship and economic development efforts at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“We are all in awe when we see what has happened, when we look around the campus and realize the burst of money and energy and enthusiasm and construction — and forward-thinking improvements — that have taken place in these past few years,” said Betsey Solberg, chair of the UMKC Foundation. “Much of the credit for ensuring that the changes on this campus were just about perfect goes to Leo Morton, the man who is so passionate about the potential of UMKC that he runs a sprint and a marathon at the same time, ensuring that the vision we all share for this university is being accomplished.”

A multi-disciplinary initiative, the center will provide a platform for invention, research and education with a wide range of partners, including the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, MRIGlobal and Metropolitan Community College.

The facility will assist entrepreneurs, educators, researchers and industry in the production of prototype devices, manufacturing processes and end products. It is intended to act as a catalyst for entrepreneurs, educators, mentors and collaborators for economic development through product design, innovative education and state-of-the-art research.

The new building will provide the critically needed space to accommodate the rapid growth of two of UMKC’s fastest-growing academic units: the School of Computing and Engineering and the Henry W. Bloch School of Management. The two schools are already collaborating on new initiatives that link technology and management in new and innovative ways.

The Free Enterprise Center will include laboratory space, rapid prototyping equipment, educational/collaborative space and business/technology transfer advisors who will serve the students, faculty and researchers from both schools, as well as local industries, entrepreneurs, artists and K-12 students.

The KC STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Alliance within the School of Computing and Engineering is reaching more than 13,000 middle and high school students in the Kansas City region. This center would provide the KC STEM Alliance space to work with high school students on projects that involve robotics, manufacturing, material science and engineering design.

UMKC Enactus students, who compete in entrepreneurial challenges, will work with these students on the entrepreneurial and business aspects of technology and manufactured products and projects.

The facility also will be used as a laboratory, incubator and prototyping center for all students within the School of Computing and Engineering and all entrepreneurship students within the Bloch School of Management.

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