University of Utah announced a new donor initiative meant to supercharge the student entrepreneurial experience and Utah’s reputation for financial technology innovation and education.
The university, in partnership with the Stena Foundation and founders Steve and Jana Smith, will create the Stena Center for Financial Technology. The foundation has orchestrated total funds of up to $65 million over the next 10 years to support the center, including industry-sponsored labs, a start-up incubator, venture funds and fintech-focused degrees and certificates. Reinvestments from the venture funds are ultimately expected to fund the center in perpetuity.
The center will collaborate significantly with academic units on campus to develop programs and degrees, including the David Eccles School of Business, the John and Marcia Price College of Engineering and the S.J. Quinney College of Law, as well as the President’s Office. As part of the new financial technology center program, the university recently began offering a minor emphasis in fintech. Over the next four years, the U will also begin offering undergraduate and master’s degrees in fintech.
Center initiatives will launch with an incubator-the fintechXstudio-and venture capital funds will be made available to qualifying student founders working in the field of financial technology. With six research-focused labs, industry-sponsored projects, an innovation hub and student-focused investment funds, the center aims to unite education and industry to accelerate financial innovation and inclusion in Utah and beyond. The center will be led by executive director Ryan Christiansen, former senior vice president of data access partnerships at Mastercard.
The fintechXstudio will start with an annual cohort of 10 student entrepreneurs and businesses working on financial technology innovation. Students will have access to expert faculty, office space, industry mentors, technology solutions partners, curated courses, prototyping tools and technology, venture capital and the university’s global education programs. Each year, the venture fund will invest a total of at least $1 million in 10 or more student-led fintech companies. A large portion of the carry earnings from those investments will be reinvested into the center.
As part of the launch, the university recently began offering a fintech minor. Plans are underway to add fintech undergraduate and master’s degrees within the next four years.
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