big winner

Houston innovation leader receives prestigious higher ed award

Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, has received an impressive award for his leadership. Photo via

A figurehead in Houston's innovation ecosystem has received an award for his career leading innovation in higher education.

Brad Burke, who's served as managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship since its inception 22 years ago, received the Outstanding Contributions to Advancing Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education Award. Burke was presented with the award at the 2023 Deshpande Symposium for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education.

Recognizing an individual who has proven to be successful in leading entrepreneurship within higher education, the award was founded by serial entrepreneur Desh Deshpande. The event attracts academics, policy planners, and practitioners every year to share thought leadership within higher education entrepreneurship and innovation.

“Brad’s sustained leadership has been a driving force in making these transformative accomplishments within Rice and the broader higher education community,” Rice President Reginald DesRoches writes in his nomination letter.

The Rice Alliance is home to many of Rice University's innovation and entrepreneurship programming, including annual Energy Tech Venture Forum, the Clean Energy Accelerator, OwlSpark, Blue Launch, Texas Life Science Forum, and more.

The cornerstone program for Rice Alliance is the annual Rice Business Plan Competition, which Burke has overseen grow from nine regional universities competing for $10,000 in 2001 to 42 global teams securing investment and prices totalling $3.4 million in prizes in 2023.

While Rice has developed these programs for innovation and entrepreneurship on campus, a key component to the Rice Alliance is its role in the greater Houston innovation ecosystem, Burke previously told InnovationMap on an episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast.

"I think Houston has this culture of collaboration that I suspect that some other major cities don't have in the same way," Burke says on the show. "And while we're a big city, the entrepreneurial ecosystem feels like a small network of a lot of people who work really well together."

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