March 16, 2011
CHAPEL HILL -- Some of the nation's top minds gathered at UNC on Tuesday to discuss the twin economic engines -- innovation and entrepreneurship.
The university hosted the inaugural forum of the U.S. Commerce Department's National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) of which UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp is a member.
Hundreds of business leaders came to UNC to learn from the council and to share their ideas about ways to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in an attempt to create jobs to pull the nation from its economic doldrums.
The forum also brought to campus Gov. Beverly Perdue and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to become U.S. Ambassador to China.
Locke, who first announced the creation of the council in 2009, said the work of the panel is important to the nation's economy because it will allow businesses to grow, create new products and services and generate good jobs.
"Our current focus -- improving the commercialization of university research, improving access to capital and celebrating entrepreneurship -- are projects that are very important to the administration," Locke said. "These are areas where NACIE now provides, and will continue to provide critical advice and counsel."
One advisory council subcommittee led by University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman has drafted a letter encouraging universities to step up efforts to move research projects from laboratories to the marketplace.
The letter urges universities to:
- Upgrade programs to teach entrepreneurs.
- Enable innovation by faculty.
- Accelerate technology transfer to the private sector.
- Foster regional economic development.
"Once the letter is signed by a large cross-section of university leaders, we will have made a big step forward in the way that universities prioritize their commercialization efforts both internally and externally through partnerships," Locke said.
He also said that it's important to continue to improve K-12 education to produce well-educated students capable of producing such research.
Perdue, who arrived at the forum about 11 a.m., said the nation is watching the work of the advisory council closely.
"We in America expect great things from your report and the work that you do because you have assembled, Secretary Locke, the best minds in America to focus on how we move the whole country into an era of innovation," Perdue said.
Perdue noted that North Carolina has been ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation.
She noted accomplishments such as the creation of the nation's first public university, Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright creating the first airplane on the state's coast and the Research Triangle Park.
"I believe it's appropriate that the inaugural meeting of the advisory council is being held in North Carolina because if you read our history, and most of us in this state have, you understand that we've been built on the back of innovation," Perdue said.
Nearly all 24 members of the council attended the forum, including Steve Case, co-founder of America Online, and Gururaj "Desh" Deshpande, chairman of Sparta Group LLC and Chapel Hill resident Ping Fu, co-founder, chairman, president and CEO of Geomagic in Research Triangle Park.
Case, also founder of the Case Foundation, said the majority of the nation's job growth over the past two decades has come from mid-sized firms created by entrepreneurs.
"As we focus on business, as we focus on the economy, as we focus on job creation, we have to focus on entrepreneurship in particularly celebrating and accelerating the role of entrepreneurs," Case said.
Southern Governors’ Association (SGA), founded in 1934, is the oldest and historically the largest of the regional governors' associations. SGA uses the power of connection, collaboration and communications in a bipartisan manner to solve regional problems, improve quality of life and secure an economically vibrant and prosperous American South.