U announces new $45 million entrepreneurial work/live space breaking ground this fall

The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah announced today a $12 million gift from Pierre Lassonde, bringing his total contribution to $25 million. The new donation will be used for a transformative building for student entrepreneurs. Estimated to cost $45 million, the 148,000-square-feet facility will unite 412 residences with 20,000-square-foot “garage” space for students to gather, build prototypes and launch companies. Officials expect the building to catapult the university’s reputation for entrepreneurship education.

The facility will be called the Lassonde Studios: Live. Create. Launch. Groundbreaking is scheduled for fall 2014, with students moving in fall 2016.

“This building is the materialization of Pierre Lassonde’s visionary approach to student innovation and entrepreneurism,” said David Pershing, president of the university. “His enormous generosity and this unique building will make the University of Utah the best place in the country to be a student entrepreneur. The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute has a distinctive mission to provide hands-on learning experiences that allow students to test their ideas and succeed on their own terms. This building will make those opportunities available to many more students. We believe it is the first of its kind anywhere.”

The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, a division of the David Eccles School of Business, has pioneered a new way of teaching entrepreneurship through interdisciplinary programs where students learn by doing. It has helped the University of Utah become one of the best places to study entrepreneurship. The Princeton Review has ranked it one of the top-25 schools for entrepreneurship for the last three years.

A successful mining entrepreneur with an MBA from the University of Utah, Lassonde previously pledged $13 million to create what is now known as the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute. His vision was to create a place where students from different majors could collaborate and learn about entrepreneurship by creating, connecting with resources and launching companies. The new donation will further this vision by bringing numerous programs under one roof and allowing even more students to get involved.

“Our programs have provided thousands of students with entrepreneurial experiences, and it has changed the University of Utah, its efforts to commercialize research and the entire state with the dozens and dozens of startups that have been created by our graduates,” Lassonde said. “This incredible new building will allow us to extend these opportunities to thousands more in a more meaningful and concentrated way. We are transforming entrepreneurial education.”

The new facility will have the same versatility and durability as an industrial loft building. The ground floor with studio workshops will have everything a young entrepreneur could want – 3D printers, power tools, office space, lounge areas and more. Surrounding the work space will be unique student residences in the form of loft areas for groups and small, moveable pods for individuals. The entire building will use a “universal grid” that will allow sections to be remodeled and repurposed based on student needs.

“The building will be as innovative and entrepreneurial as the activities inside,” said Troy D’Ambrosio, executive director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute. “Students will be able to choose what type of residence they want and what type of work space they prefer, and if we don’t have what they want, we might start knocking down walls. If this building is the same five years after we open the doors, we are doing something wrong. Entrepreneurship is never static.”

While planning the building, University of Utah staff travelled the country looking at entrepreneur spaces while engaging hundreds of students, faculty and partners during months of intense planning. Contractors involved include EDA Architects, Cannon Design and ARUP.

A native of Quebec, Lassonde received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Ecole Polytechnique before attending the University of Utah with his late wife Claudette MacKay-Lassonde. He earned an MBA, and she earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering. Lassonde’s first donation to the University of Utah was a way to commemorate their time at the university and helped create an interdisciplinary center that mirrored their marriage, a union of business and science. The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute continues this legacy of interdisciplinary collaboration.

After attending the University of Utah, Lassonde found success as a mining entrepreneur. He launched Franco-Nevada Mining Corporation in 1982 and continued to pioneer new methods of investing in precious metals. A few of his many accomplishments include writing “The Gold Book: The Complete Investment Guide to Precious Metals,” being named to the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, receiving four honorary doctorate degrees and became a member of the Order of Canada in 2012.

“The most important natural resource we have is not gold but our young people, our next generation,” Lassonde said. “It is vital that we support and encourage them to challenge themselves and find creative ways to work together. The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute is doing this, and the new building will allow even more students to benefit from the innovative programs and mentorship.”

(Image is an artist rendering, and building design is subject to change) 

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