It hasn’t been difficult for Karinne Bredberg to hit the ground running as NIU’s new director of innovation in the Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships (RIPS).
Bredberg’s education and professional experience have prepared her well.
She’s a double alumna of NIU, having earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and Master of Public Administration degree. She also has worked for RIPS in several capacities since 2006, most recently as assistant director in the Office of Innovation. She steps into the director post previously held by her collaborator Luke Sebby, who’s now in a new role with the NIU Foundation.
“Like so many of our amazing alumni, I have a special fondness for my alma mater and want it to thrive,” Bredberg says. “I take great pride in the work that our office does to fulfill the university’s mission and vision. At one time or another, I managed all aspects of our services, including the university’s intellectual property portfolio.”
Gerald Blazey, NIU’s vice president for Research and Innovation Partnerships, says Bredberg has been the go-to person when it comes to establishing partnerships that have led to opportunities for hundreds of students. She spearheaded past initiatives with Discover Financial Services and IDEAL Industries Inc., as well as a current internship program with Northwestern Mutual, which has taken up residence in NIU’s 71 North Partnership Studio.
“Karinne has really demonstrated the ability to forge innovative partnerships that benefit private industry and at the same time provide NIU students with incredible opportunities that lead to post-graduation jobs,” Blazey says. “In addition to being experienced in all facets of innovation, she’s a team player who works well with others. I know she’ll be able to build and expand on the growing success of our Office of Innovation.”
Developing more partnerships is among Bredberg’s priorities.
“I will be looking for those win-win opportunities that engage our NIU community in the advancement of research, innovation and entrepreneurship and enable students to translate classroom learning into real-world application,” she says. “These partnerships can form with external partners—but also inter-departmentally.”
Bredberg hopes to take full advantage of the 71 North Partnership Studio and its prime location on campus in Founders Memorial Library.
“Dean (Fred) Barnhart and the University Libraries administration have been a fantastic partner for the Office of Innovation and the Studio,” Bredberg says. “It’s a natural location fit for us since we both provide resources that stimulates the spark in people to create new ideas.”
The 71 North space already is getting plenty of use.
In addition to Northwestern Mutual, other industry tenants include Premier Crop Systems, a precision agriculture company; and 168 Community, an alumnus startup focused on educational enhancement opportunities for higher education students. The space also accommodates the STARS Faculty Academy; the student Innovation Club; the Innovation Conversations series; networking events known as Catalytic Conversations; ad-hoc innovation-centered meetings for other campus units; Office of Innovation facilitated events, including startup incubation; and Tuesday afternoon office hours for the Business Law Innovation Clinic, which provides legal assistance for commonly occurring issues in startup formation and company operations.
“The term ‘innovation’ encompasses a wide breadth of opportunities for our office to be involved in and develop around,” Bredberg says. “We’re fortunate to have an amazing community of forward-thinking students, faculty and staff who have creative and innovative ideas. So you could view the Office of Innovation as a facilitator—we help turn those ideas into realities.”