The McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy was founded in 2015 with an $8 million gift from the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation. Dr. Edward J. Egan was chosen as the founding director. He designed the center to provide policymakers, scholars, and the general public with comprehensive analyses of the issues that affect entrepreneurship and innovation at three levels: federal and state policy, municipal ecosystems, and academic entrepreneurship and innovation.
The Center’s foci were naturally on the U.S., Texas, Houston, and Rice University, but it also drew and shared insights from the best practices and policies worldwide. Its philosophy was to combine grounded theory and data-driven causal design to produce peer-reviewed research that stands up to scrutiny. To this end, the center collected and disseminated data, provided open access to informational resources, collaborated with leading academic experts, built understanding, and recommended policy to harness the incredible power of entrepreneurship and innovation.
By 2018, the McNair Center had provided more than 70 undergraduate and graduate students with internships to develop policy research, had a staff of four, and was the largest social science research laboratory on the Rice University Campus. It received offers of an additional $6.2m in funding to hire three more fellows and two more staff members and to roll out its nationwide research affiliate program.