The US bioeconomy generated an estimated $300 billion of revenue in 2011. Advances in foundational technologies, such as synthetic biology, are lowering barriers to biotechnology, enabling a growing number of people to participate. Technological advances and the democratization of biotechnology present opportunities for economic growth, particularly in areas like small-scale, distributed biomanufacturing. In addition to growth, technical advances springing from the bioeconomy also present great hope for reducing the severity of some of our nation’s most pressing financial challenges, particularly those related to the increasing costs of healthcare delivery and energy. These opportunities challenge educational institutions to enhance training programs, foster innovation and entrepreneurship, and to promote the responsible/ethical use of biotechnology. We identify new opportunities for research universities to help drive growth in the bioeconomy, highlight existing efforts and propose new opportunities, and describe some of the associated “boots-on-the-ground” challenges that must be addressed before widespread implementation can succeed.