Universities, hoping to sway millennials, are now opening innovation hubs for undergraduates

A few years ago, Raghupathy Sivakumar, a computer science professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, realized he had a problem.

An undergraduate student had just won a prestigious business plan competition Sivakumar had helped organize, but the student had no idea how to advance his idea from concept to product, a major roadblock for most undergraduates.

So, in 2014, Sivakumar was tapped to start CREATE-X, an umbrella of entrepreneurial support programs catered specifically to Georgia Tech undergraduates. Part of the program’s objective was to tap into a previously ignored segment of the population: The undergraduates who form the lion’s share of the school’s more than 26,000-strong enrollment.

Sivakumar’s experience is part of a trend in which schools are crafting entrepreneurial programs with an eye toward undergrads. As colleges look to keep pace with a competitive job market being shaped by automation and globalization, many are opening entrepreneur centers designed to entice millennials.

“The reality is most of the people at a university are generally the undergraduates,” said Keith McGreggor, the director of Georgia Tech’s VentureLab, which houses CREATE-X.

“New ideas could really come from anywhere,” he told CNBC recently. “So to ignore the largest population of people on your campus is kind of a nutty idea, but we certainly did for a long time.”