Taking Innovation Abroad

Innovation often happens by venturing boldly into unfamiliar territory. Using the fast-growing, cutting-edge field of nanotechnology as its foundation, a new Maymester study abroad program in Barcelona, Spain, gives Cockrell School of Engineering students the opportunity to grow as innovators and entrepreneurs.

Chemical engineering professor Brian Korgel has partnered with faculty members at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona to give students a unique study abroad experience that combines engineering and entrepreneurship in a leading European hub. Nanotechnology Innovation is a four-week course that brings together students from different disciplines, cultures and nations to learn about innovation and commercialization through nanotechnology — a platform that is both multidisciplinary in nature and international in scope.

“Research in nanotechnology is uncovering so much new knowledge and so many possibilities for new applications that it is an extremely exciting topic for students,” Korgel said. “Many of these new breakthroughs are turning into — or have the potential to turn into — startup companies and new products.”

And Barcelona, Korgel said, is the ideal city for a course like this. “Barcelona has a very entrepreneurial and independent spirit,” he said. The city is also a major center of science, engineering and innovation in Europe, with strong research efforts in nanotechnology. So much so that Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, considered one of the best public universities in Spain, recently launched degree programs specific to nanotechnology.

Korgel, who has spent his career conducting nanotechnology research, said this was a perfect time to engage students and teach them about the field. With group activities, company visits and talks from seasoned engineers and entrepreneurs, students learn about breakthrough research, the fundamentals of business creation and how discoveries in nanotechnology can lead to companies.

“The course is really about empowering students to have an entrepreneurial spirit and become thought leaders and innovators in their chosen fields,” Korgel said.

All engineering majors may apply to take Nanotechnology Innovation, in Barcelona, Spain, for the 2015 Maymester. There are a limited number of spots for non-engineering majors. Final deadline to apply is Nov. 1. If you are interested in applying, please email the Cockrell School’s engineering study abroad office at iee@engr.utexas.edu.

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