The endowment gift will be used to create the Zahn Innovation Platform (ZIP) and the Zahn Chair of Creativity and Innovation. A hub for collaboration across disciplines, the exploration of new ideas, and the launch of new ventures, ZIP will expand SDSU's Zahn Innovation Center, which was established in 2012 with a $700,000 gift from Moxie Foundation chair and CEO Irwin Zahn as a commercial and social incubator designed to foster entrepreneurship on campus. The innovation platform will host a variety of initiatives, including the ZIP Launchpad, an incubator; the ZIP Lab, which will use design thinking to facilitate collaborative problem-solving for all types of design challenges across campus and in the community; and the ZIP Lounge, an open, creative space for informal brainstorming, co-working, and events.
The gift also will endow the Zahn Professorship of Creativity and Innovation, a rotating two-year appointment for faculty members from different disciplines that will enable them to pursue work designed to accelerate entrepreneurship across campus; and the Irwin Zahn Spirit of Innovation Prize, which will be awarded to one SDSU graduate per year to cover his/her student debt.
Zahn is the founder of the General Staple Company, which built industrial stapling machines for manufacturers of watches and belts and, later, zippers on jeans — and eventually grew into Autosplice, Inc., a global electronic interconnect company.
"We believe that entrepreneurial thought and action extend far beyond starting a venture; it's a critical skill set that we want every member of the SDSU community equipped with," said Zahn. "We have enjoyed watching the success of those involved with the Zahn Innovation Center and believe that this endowment will help expand the influence of innovation and changemaking to all corners of the campus...and beyond."