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UH introduces new innovation-focused programs

In the fall semester of 2019, undergraduate students can choose to minor or major in a few new innovation programs. Photo courtesy of University of Houston

The University of Houston took a step forward in educating Houston's future innovators. The university has created two minor programs and a major focused on innovation.

Undergraduate students now have the option to major or minor in Technology Leadership and Innovation Management or minor in Applied Innovation. All three options begin in the fall semester of this year in the College of Technology. According to the college's dean, Anthony P. Ambler, the college is also interested in adding a master's and a PhD. program in Innovation Management or a post-graduate certificate program.

"We are about giving people the right tools to innovate," says Ambler in a release. "How do you get more people to the position where they are able to innovate?"

All of the programs are affiliated with two out-of-state institutions: the University of Maine's Foster Center for Innovation and Ohio-based Innovation Engineering.

UH previously offered Innovation Leadership classes, and one was taught by David Crawley. His class and the new programs focus on the tools students need to develop "to solve problems and develop meaningfully unique opportunities," Crawley says in the release.

"I always thought of creativity as something that comes upon you in the middle of the night, or in the shower," says Ahmad Mohamad, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering technology, who took Crawley's class last semester. "But there are techniques you can learn to help you come up with these creative solutions."

The Technology Leadership major replaces the Organization Leadership and Supervision degree, but students currently majoring in this program will be able to continue on with the new degree program, according to the release.

"Learning how to innovate — how to identify unmet needs, creatively develop solutions, and then bring them to reality – amplifies the workplace value of all other technical and business skills," says John Jeffers, director of geosciences at Southwestern Energy, in the release. "Whether innovating within an organization as an "intrapreneur", or stepping out to create something new, people who are familiar with the mindset and practice of innovation have an enormous advantage."

These programs aren't the only thing UH is doing to advance innovation in Houston. The university has recently revamped its Energy Research Park to be the Technology Bridge. The institution provides space and resources for early-stage, research-based startups. Read more about the UH Technology Bridge here.

Courtesy of UHAnthony Ambler is the dean of the UH College of Technology.

UiPath's Houston office is in a historic downtown Houston building that's been renovated. Courtesy of Main&Co

When UiPath decided to look into an office in Houston, it was a bit of a gamble, since Houston's not particularly known for its wealth of hardware talent.

"We did a little bit of an experiment to see what the skills would be like specifically in a Houston office," Marie Myers, CFO of the company and based in Houston, tells InnovationMap. "As a robotics company, we weren't sure if we'd get more of those software skills. It's not a natural market for those skills."

But Houston — and Texas in general — is a great location for the robotics process automation company, Myers says. It's central and optimal for customer acquisition. Valued at $7 billion, UiPath has over 2,500 customers — adding six more a day on average, according to a news release.

Since beginning Houston operations in January, Myers says she's very pleased with the 71-person team the company has assembled locally, and the company has even expanded in that short time. Following a $568 million Series D round closing, the company almost doubled its office size.

"The Series D is critical for us as we continue to grow and we're using those proceeds to grow our base across the world, and obviously part of the Houston expansion has been just that," Myers says.

UiPath plans to really settle into Houston and even bring a an RPA Immersion Lab into its Houston office. The lab would allow for potential customers to try out the technology and run simulations. The lab is on the docket for 2020, Myers says.

Another way UiPath is engaging with the Houston community is through its connection to students and universities. The company has an arrangement with six universities in Houston and is even located just across the street from the University of Houston-Downtown. Myers says the company had one of its largest group of interns working in Houston.

"It's going to be so important for students graduating to have experience in up-and-coming technologies, like RPA," Meyers says. "We see such great support from the local universities."