Gerald Wilson joins Illinois as its first director of entrepreneurship
Turning research and innovation into tangible benefits to society has always been a priority and strength at UIUC. Now, with the hire of Gerald Wilson as Director of Entrepreneurship, the university’s commitment and impact are being elevated to new heights.
In his new role, Wilson is responsible for developing and implementing a plan to accelerate entrepreneurship across research institutes, colleges, and departments. His focus includes growing programs and securing resources to help more innovators create, fund, manage, and grow successful companies. Wilson is based at EnterpriseWorks incubator, which he sees as a campuswide hub for developing community among inventors and aspiring entrepreneurs, and expanding resources that lead to entrepreneurial impact.
“I’m excited to help build a culture of entrepreneurship across campus in a way that builds on the excellent initiatives and resources that are already in place,” said Wilson, noting that there are entrepreneurial thinkers in every unit at the university. “Now we need to drive more curation and coordination, with a focus on scaling the mindset, vision, and resources.”
Wilson is uniquely positioned to do exactly that. In addition to his two UIUC degrees – a Ph.D. from Grainger College of Engineering and an MBA from Gies College of Business – he was part of a multidisciplinary research team at Beckman as a graduate student. That research led to the development of an advanced materials company, which Wilson co-founded and led as CEO over the last four years. The company licensed technology from the university, received venture capital investment from Illinois Ventures, started its operations at EnterpriseWorks, and stayed in Champaign-Urbana after graduating from the incubator.
“I’m excited to help build a culture of entrepreneurship across campus in a way that builds on the excellent initiatives and resources that are already in place,” said Wilson, “Now we need to drive more curation and coordination, with a focus on scaling the mindset, vision, and resources.”
Mentoring and sharing knowledge are also key components of Wilson’s experience. He has been a clinical assistant professor in the Technology Entrepreneur Center at Grainger, an Entrepreneur in Residence at EnterpriseWorks, and a leadership coach and workshop facilitator for the Illinois Leadership Center.
“This was a natural next step for me,” said Wilson. “It’s an opportunity to bring together my experience on both sides of the equation – as a business founder and as someone who has been teaching and mentoring new and aspiring founders at Illinois.”
Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Susan Martinis said Wilson’s hire in this new role represents the university’s commitment to accelerating innovation, entrepreneurship, and impact.
"As one of America’s leading research universities, we’re really focused on turning research into jobs and businesses that benefit society," said Martinis. "The solutions are here – and expanding our capacity to support entrepreneurs and small businesses is fundamental to our mission. Gerald is the right person to take us to that next level, particularly at a time when the state and federal government are looking to our community for leadership to ensure national competitiveness."
It's also the right time to make that move, said Wilson.
“People across campus are leaning into the conversation, and key stakeholders are motivated to invest in what’s happening here. We already have an impressive track record in this space and a broad scope of resources – we just need to scale our efforts and make it easy for every innovator here to find and leverage what we have to offer.”
Kristin Tennant, OVCRI Director of Research Communications
Sep 19, 2023