May 11-17, 2001
Back Issues
Darden's Snyder named dean at Chicago
Casteen announces actions U.Va. will take on recent athletics task force report
Northwest ties lure Reed to retire

Meditation can assist in the healing process

The Batten Institute spurs innovative business ideas
Intern program offers new job perspective
Nanotechnology: making parts small so big things can happen
Correction -- Paul Freedman misidentified
Off the Shelf -- recently published books by faculty and staff
Notable -- awards and achievements of faculty and staff
Robert Sweeney named senior vice president
Graduation weekend May 19-20
Hot Links -- real-time streaming of graduation ceremonies
After Hours -- "Slowpoke" moseys along the road of alternative comics
Robert F. Bruner
Matt Kelly
Robert F. Bruner

The Batten Institute spurs innovative business ideas

By Chris Allerton

Robert F. Bruner, executive director of the Batten Institute, describes the institute as a catalyst for intellectual activity.

“By supporting and funding research and programs, we encourage pioneering thought and practice across the University,” he says. “We provide capital to start these activities and look for University partners to help them succeed long term.”

The result of two substantial gifts from U.Va. alumnus Frank Batten Sr., the institute addresses entrepreneurship — the aim of Batten’s original gift — as well as supporting and funding research and programs related to creating, leading and transforming business enterprise. Its endowment stands at more than $80 million.

“The Batten Institute supports research on problems of compelling interest to business practitioners,” Bruner said. It funds seven multidisciplinary research initiatives undertaken by Darden faculty, including diversity, supply chain management, mergers and acquisitions, e-business, leading innovation, environmental management, and risk capital. It also supports research, conferences, and publications related to these initiatives.

Although housed at Darden School, its aspirations and influence reach beyond the North Grounds.

“We advance and support both the Darden and University missions,” said Bruner, a Distinguished Professor of Business Administration. Indeed, many of the institute’s programs reflect this commitment.

Batten InstituteFor example, teams from across the University have participated in institute-sponsored business concept and business plan competitions. Diffusion Pharmaceuticals, a company commercializing the oxygen diffusion research of Engineering School professor John Gainer, placed first in the most recent business plan competition. CaseNex, a company developed at the Curry School which sells Web-based products and services to teachers and school administrators, placed second.

These and other finalists were invited to join Darden’s Progressive Incubator, which assists University entrepreneurs in taking their first steps in developing business ideas into viable enterprises. Incubator participants are provided limited pre-launch resources — office space, Internet access, funding leads and a summer stipend — to assist them in refining their ventures. The Incubator also provides informal guidance and mentoring by Darden faculty, alumni and others. About a dozen venture teams are in the program currently, located in facilities in downtown Charlottesville and the Darden School’s office in Reston.

Each year the institute co-hosts the Charlottesville Venture Forum with the Charlottesville Venture Group and Virginia Gateway, which represents the University’s interests in the development of Central Virginia’s high technology business sector. Held at the Darden School, the Venture Forum brings together emerging businesses, investors and entreprenesurs for presentations and dialogue. The event drew more than 200 participants last year. The institute also supports the U.Va. Entrepreneurs Network, which connects interested parties from across the University.

Wendell E. Dunn III, director of U.Va.-Darden Partnerships for the Batten Institute, forges and nurtures these and other University relationships. He also represents Darden and the institute on the boards of the U.Va. Patent Foundation and its venture development subsidiary, Spinner Technologies.

“Another key element of the Batten Institute’s mission is to involve prominent thought leaders in the University community,” Bruner said.

The institute underwrites the Batten Fellows Program, which brings research scholars and innovators to Darden.

“The Batten Fellows share important perspectives, experiences, insights and relationships,” Bruner said. “Darden, and the University, benefit from their visits in many ways: collaborative research with faculty, classroom presentations to students, seminars, small group meetings and individual interaction with faculty and students.”

Later this month, Jeffrey K. Skilling, recently named CEO of Enron Corporation, will deliver the keynote address at the institute’s first annual dinner. Enron is a Texas-based energy company that transformed itself from the country’s largest natural gas distribution firm to an energy trading company by creating new markets and effectively utilizing the Internet. It has built a portfolio of gas, electric and communications businesses and now operates the largest e-commerce site in the world. Fortune magazine recognized the company as “America’s Most Innovative Company” for the sixth consecutive time in 2000.

The Batten Institute is also helping the Darden School establish its presence in the Northern Virginia high-technology corridor. Its funding of Darden’s Reston office supports case-writing activities, serves as a base of operations for numerous student business projects undertaken for corporate clients and offers education programs to the region’s executives.

Bruner, a Darden faculty member since 1982, has received more than 10 awards from faculty and students for teaching, as well as several awards for case writing. In 1999 he received a Harrison Award for teaching excellence. He is the author of more than 250 cases, many focusing on corporate finance and corporate transformation, and a consultant to dozens of global organizations. Bruner was tapped to lead the Batten Institute last year.


© Copyright 2001 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

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