houston innovators podcast episode 180

This Houston innovator is set on bringing more innovation off campus and into the world

Paul Cherukuri, vice president of innovation at Rice University, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via Rice.edu

Rice University was founded on a mission of an "unfettered pursuit of knowledge," says Paul Cherukuri, the inaugural vice president for innovation at Rice University. And that goal is specifically designed to be "for the greater good of society," — especially in Houston.

"Rice is right in the middle of one of the greatest cities in the world," Cherukuri says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Houston is special on so many levels that it's ridiculous that no one outside of Houston seems to get that. ... We have a moral responsibility as Rice to do more for this city and the country."

Among the top action items on this overarching mission Rice is on is ensuring that the Rice University's inventions and research that have the potential to make the world a better place are able to commercialize to deliver on that impact.

For decades, university research that made it out into the world did so in two ways: papers and patents. While those two avenues are reliable and on going, they take a while. And, as Cherukuri says, the world needs innovative solutions quicker than ever. Cherukuri is focused on expanding those pathways so that more of this innovation — which he describes as invention and commercialization — to come to fruition.

One of the ways Cherukuri is hoping Rice innovators get "beyond the hedges" of the university, as he describes it, is through the Rice Nexus, a hub within the Ion that Cherukuri announced last month. He says Rice is leasing space in the hub, which is owned and operated by Rice Management Company.

"It's a two-way street," Cherukuri says. "We're going to solve problems out in the real world and get those solutions to scale, and we'll be able to find new problems in the real world and bring them inside of Rice and create that new tech. We want to be able to make solutions."

The idea is to create a bridge between the university and the Ion so that more innovation and research can be shared between the campus and Houston's innovation ecosystem.

"We've got so much technology in our labs that we've never shared with the world," Cherukuri says. "We're going to demonstrate that in the Ion."

Also important to Cherukuri is that other universities have a seat at the table, too.

"The Ion represents this catalyst — it's an aggregator and concentrator of excellence for around the city," Cherukuri says. "We're designing the place so that we can connect to the world better."

Hear more of Cherukuri's thought leadership on Houston, Rice University, and the challenges of advancing research and technology to address society's greatest needs on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

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