Dear Tulane Community:
A central part of Tulane’s mission is pursuing bold, unconventional innovation that addresses societal problems, increases insights into the human condition and improves lives locally and around the world. With ingenuity and a growth mindset, we bring together scholars, scientists and students who cross, combine and redefine the boundaries that separate disciplines.
Finding solutions today that create a better tomorrow is what the Tulane Innovation Institute – a major, new transformative endeavor by our university – is all about. Thanks to generous lead gifts from longtime Tulane supporters, the Institute will launch operations from its downtown headquarters later this year. Its top goal will be to bring to market, as fast as possible, the discoveries and ideas of Tulane faculty, researchers, staff and students, as well as those of innovators throughout our region.
Another primary focus will be to produce future innovators among Tulane’s students by creating more innovative and entrepreneurial educational programs across disciplines. The Institute will also serve as a central gathering place for the startup communities of New Orleans, the state and the region, offering support services for their endeavors.
The American landscape is replete with urban areas whose inner core has been transformed by the presence of a major research university in its midst. This is the destiny of Tulane and New Orleans. Located within the downtown Innovation District, the Institute will serve as a magnet for researchers and innovators, creating a self-sustaining ecosystem that will help New Orleans build a more diversified economy. Once the redevelopment of the Charity Hospital building is complete, the Institute will be housed there. Initially, though, it will be headquartered on the ground level of Tulane’s new Thirteen15 residential community.
We are grateful to the Priddy Family Foundation for making the lead gift and securing the pivotal funds to launch the Institute’s Robert L. Priddy Innovation Lab, which will provide funding for aspiring entrepreneurs and promising technologies. The lab will also offer mentorship, administrative, budgetary, marketing and branding support. Along with Robert Priddy, a 1969 graduate of Tulane and his wife, Kikie, the Priddy Foundation is run by their daughter and son-in-law, Shannon and Mike Acks, and their son, Christopher Priddy.
Another lead gift came from Board of Tulane member David Mussafer (B ’85) and his wife, Marion, who established the David and Marion Mussafer Innovation Funds to support a wide range of the Institute’s activities, from programming and staff support to mentoring, marketing, and startup and proof-of-concept funding. The Institute’s managing executive will be known as the David and Marion Mussafer Chief Innovation and Entrepreneurship Officer.
Other supporters include David Barksdale (TC ’00), a member of the Board of Tulane, principal at Alluvian Capital, and chair of The Idea Village, and his wife, Stephanie, a social innovation and social entrepreneurship instructor at the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking; Carol Bernick (NC ’74), chair of the Board of Tulane and CEO of Polished Nickel Capital Management, a privately held company that manages diversified investments and owned operating companies in retail and professional sports; Walter Isaacson, an emeritus member of the Board of Tulane and the Leonard A. Lauder Professor of American History and Values, and his wife, Cathy, vice-chair of The Idea Village; and Jeffrey Silverman (A&S ’89), co-founder and managing partner of Laconia Capital Group LLC, and his wife, Amy. Other institutional partners within the Tulane community and throughout our city and region can be found here.
More funding is currently being sought to empower this project to reach its full potential. The opportunities are vast. For instance, once fully operational, the Priddy Innovation Lab will seek to invest in numerous proof-of-concept projects and startups by providing millions of dollars in grants and direct investment during the first five years. Long term, it anticipates having an equity stake in dozens of startups and expects to attract more than $100 million in capital to the region.
The Innovation Institute will be a victory for all parties involved: Tulane, the city of New Orleans, the state and the region. My deepest gratitude to the Priddys and Mussafers — and all of our lead donors — for making this opportunity possible for Tulane, New Orleans and the world