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Idea Factory
Venkatachalam promotes economic development

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Exceptional at execution. That's how Ross Gittell describes his colleague and friend A.R. "Venky" Venkatachalam.

Jonathan Bird
Perry Smith/UNH Photographic Services

"He is exceptional at delivering what he promises, and he always wants to do something better," Gittell says. "Execution is his favorite word."

Venkatachalam worked with Gittell, who is now chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire, to spearhead the Green Launching Pad, for example, a partnership between the state and UNH that has helped 14 innovative companies bring new products to market and create jobs. (With some private funding, it will soon broaden its focus as the Granite Launching Pad.)

In the mid-1990s, Venkatachalam created the online Angel Capital Network to help small businesses gain access to venture capital. It's now used in 45 states. He's also working on a pilot of his Enterprise Integration Research Center, which would help high-tech companies get funding for intellectual property. He received nearly $1 million for the project from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; if a patent is granted, he will expand it into a nationwide network.

Venkatachalam is an "idea factory," says Jesse Devitte, co-founder of the investment firm Borealis Ventures: "In addition to being creative on his own, he is also very happy to embrace other people's ideas."

A professor of information systems who has a degree in mechanical engineering and a doctorate in business, Venkatachalam was interested in interdisciplinary work long before it became a buzzword. "Real-world problems are highly interdisciplinary," he says, "and not every invention becomes an innovation. Just because you create something in the lab doesn't mean it's destined to be a successful product or business. 'Is there a market? Do people want it? Will they pay?' There is a lot of work to do."

In his new role as associate dean of academic programs for the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, Venkatachalam wants to make the college an engine for economic development. It's what he believes is the new role of business colleges. Next fall, the MBA program will offer a specialization in entrepreneurship, taking what faculty members like Venkatachalam do and leveraging it into a world-class program. "My product now is academic programs," he says. ~

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