Education Innovation: Tougher Than It Looks
Experts Say Entrepreneurship in Education Has Its Challenges
Massive federal education competitions like the $650 million Investing in Innovation fund have heightened interest in practical education research, but even the most promising findings aimed at improving student learning face a long, uncertain path to become something more concrete and usable for the classroom.
Unlike fields such as physics or genetics, education science historically has not benefited from a large cadre of engineering and implementation firms ready to test lab results in a market context and launch successful programs quickly. To the contrary, experts say, the education and business communities often have trouble pulling in the same direction.
“The path to the market from something that shows promising implications in the lab is fraught with complications,” said Larry Berger, the chief executive officer and co-founder of the New York City-based Wireless Generation, at the first Education Venture Fair held last month, in Washington. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and the Washington-based Aspen Institute, it was designed to showcase the projects of runners-up in the federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, grant contest. Because philanthropic or federal seed grants, like i3 itself, rarely take an intervention all the way from research to commercial product, often “you’re stuck with a professor or two and an entrepreneur trying to make their way through a market filled with 10,000 salesmen,” said Mr. Berger, who also sits on the board of Editorial Projects in Education, the publisher of Education Week .
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