In today’s Inside Higher Education, Holden Thorp and Buck Goldstein of UNC make their case for The Entrepreneurial University as the key to innovation and solving society problems. I have not read their book yet, but I like where they are pushing the conversation and agree that an entrepreneurial mindset is the way for universities to have impact in society.
What is an entrepreneurial university, and how does it address the world’s biggest problems?
It’s a question that we’ve been asked regularly the last few months in the run-up to the recent publication of our book, Engines of Innovation: The Entrepreneurial University in the 21st Century. We wrote the book because we think this is an important question. Friends of higher education who believe, as we do, that universities are the key to taking the U.S. economy to a prosperous and more egalitarian future need examples and evidence to help make the case for investment in universities and basic research.
As they move through their arguments, the authors make it clear that their entrepreneurial university is not about commercialization or new firm formation or economic development. While I find these dismissals of duties and opportunities odd, it appears they are trying head off the knee-jerk ‘NO’ that comes from anything sounding like market based activities around the universities.
Now for what the entrepreneurial university does: 1) recognizes that liberal arts has fueled innovation 2) thrives on big problems 3) it values innovation and execution 4) it places culture ahead of structure and 5) it encourages partnerships between academics and entrepreneurs.
The author’s conclude:
Our description of the entrepreneurial university is purposely broad because if our ideas have any merit, they will be interpreted and applied differently by any institution that chooses to embrace them. We have already begun the process on our own campus and have concluded that we are engaged in an iterative exercise — more trial and error than grand plan. We are certain we will know much more in a year or two about the challenges associated with implementing some of the principals we have enunciated. To facilitate the conversation among all who are willing to take the plunge, some of our current and former students have established a website — revupinnovation.com. Please join the dialogue as we continue to explore how an entrepreneurial university can impact the world’s big problems.