Kevin J. Parker thinks he may be going out on a limb when he compares Duncan Moore, the recipient of the 2018 IEEE-USA Entrepreneur Achievement Award for Leadership in Entrepreneurial Spirit, to the legendary Frederick Terman of Stanford University.
“In a sense, comparing almost anyone to Terman is audacious,” he says. “He was a gifted engineer and academic, with enormous achievements to his credit, most notably as one of the primary creators of Silicon Valley,” Parker continues.
“But much as Frederick Terman was a catalyst for Stanford’s Industrial Park to develop into a mighty concentration of technological achievement, Duncan Moore has inspired entrepreneurship and drawn high-tech companies and consortia – especially in optics – to the Rochester area,” he says.
An IEEE Fellow and former University of Rochester (UR) Dean of Engineering, Parker has known Moore since arriving more than 35 years ago as a newly minted professor at UR. The longevity of their relationship as colleagues is why Parker was especially pleased to be one of Moore’s endorsers last fall, when IEEE Senior Member Greg Gdowski nominated Moore for the Entrepreneur Achievement Award. Gdowski is an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and executive director of UR’s Center for Medical Technology & Innovation. He says he proposed Moore because he believed IEEE should recognize Moore’s vital contributions to promoting entrepreneurship and business skills to engineering students.
“When you see Duncan’s CV, you feel humbled,” says Gdowski. “It shows that no matter how much you may have accomplished in your own life, you could do more.”
Indeed, the citation on the certificate for Moore is spot-on: “For extraordinary contributions in creating a far-reaching entrepreneurial culture for IEEE’s U.S. members.”
An IEEE Fellow, Moore joined the University of Rochester (UR) in 1974. He has served as Dean of its School of Engineering, has founded its Technical Entrepreneurship and Management (TEAM) master’s program, and has been Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship since 2007. He is widely recognized for his impact on entrepreneurialism and education in entrepreneurship.
As Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship, Moore oversees the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship, and manages the Kauffman Campus Initiative – a $3.6 million Kauffman Foundation grant to encourage entrepreneurship education at UR, with a $7.2 million match from the University over five years. Under his direction, the Ain Center offers and supports a range of university-wide programs and events, including entrepreneurs-in-residence office hours, five business plan competitions, and the student incubator. Three student-run businesses that completed the incubator program have each raised more than $1 million in startup funding.
More recently, the National Science Foundation awarded two Innovation Corps (I-Corps) grants to the Ain Center to explore market opportunities for university research and technology. One of the grants is in partnership with Cornell University and Rochester Institute of Technology.
Moore is also proud of grants from the Romanian-American Foundation to host Romanian faculty in Rochester and share best practices in establishing a university-wide entrepreneurship initiative.
An expert in gradient-index optics, optical system manufacturing, medical optics, optical instrumentation and related areas, Duncan Moore is also the Rudolf and Hilda Kingslake Professor of Optical Engineering and Professor of Business Administration at UR.
“His courses on entrepreneurship have touched hundreds of students,” notes Wendi Heinzelman. An IEEE Fellow, she is currently Dean of UR’s Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
In 1988, Moore created and introduced a distinctive technical entrepreneurship course. Its two purposes are to promote entrepreneurship to engineers; and to educate researchers identifying market prospects, evaluating technologies and determining business opportunities. Still a popular offering, the course provides a range of business concepts driven by an interdisciplinary focus.
“Engineers don’t think the same way as business people do, so launching this course was a bit of a sociological experiment,” he says. “Entrepreneurialism relies on many soft skills and doesn’t have the rigors of finance.”
In 2009, Moore launched the Technical Entrepreneurship and Management master’s program, designed so students with a STEM background can learn entrepreneurship and business skills. The degree is jointly taught and conferred by UR’s Simon Business School and the Hajim School of Engineering. Students are organized into teams, each with a coach/mentor who is an entrepreneur in the community. In Rochester, where new businesses are gradually replacing the giant employers of the past, this strategy enables students to meet members of the local business community – an important recruiting opportunity.
Moore’s efforts are especially pertinent in Rochester and the surrounding area, the former headquarters of such optical industry giants (and major employers) as Eastman Kodak, Bausch & Lomb and Polaroid. Successful startups, based on delivering new technologies, offer an economic and employment renaissance to the city — and much of Upstate New York.
“Rochester is a ripe region for entrepreneurialism,” says Wendi Heinzelman, “very important for engineers, who develop useful product technologies. But they can only get them to the marketplace through technology transfer to companies.”
Duncan Moore traces the roots of his interest in entrepreneurialism to his own personal experiences. “Back in the 1980s,” he reflects, “I started a business and made some mistakes along the way.” As the founder and first president of Gradient Lens Corporation, he also became interested in the range of other startup issues — for example: ensuring a diverse board of directors, writing tight, effective contracts, and hiring – and keeping – the best people, for as long as possible. “Part of the secret to being a successful entrepreneur,” he reflects, is “learning how to make mistakes and survive.”
Moore’s rich professional background also includes government service. From late 1997 through 2000, he served as Associate Director for Technology in The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He advised the Clinton administration on U.S. technology policy — ranging from the Next Generation Internet to the Clean Car Initiative and the National Nanotechnology Initiative, among other areas.
Just a few of his other accomplishments includes chairing the Hubble Independent Optical Review Panel, which corrected the original prescription for the now-renowned space telescope. Moore also served as president of the Optical Society of America; and he is currently on the board of Luminate, the largest optics-oriented business plan competition in the region.
Duncan Moore has opened the world of entrepreneurialism to engineers, so they can lead future technological growth. Whatever your optics, that’s an invaluable contribution to both engineering innovation and professional growth.
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.