More than 200 UNC Kenan-Flagler students heard how the new director of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise intends for it to become the leading center for global innovation and entrepreneurship and discussed research, education and networking opportunities with institute faculty and staff Aug. 29 at the annual Kenan Institute Welcome Reception.
Event organizer Nick Black (MBA’ 13) told students the institute offers many ways to apply what they learn to make a difference.
“You’re taking knowledge from brilliant, great people from the UNC community and applying it to address real issues and challenges in our backyard in North Carolina and around the world,” Black said.
UNC Kenan-Flagler Dean Jim Dean said the institute has played an important role in the university’s impact and outreach throughout its 25-year history. Its new director, Joseph DeSimone, brings knowledge, experience and connections to propel the institute to greater prominence.
“Joe comes to us as someone who is an extraordinarily accomplished researcher, who has won pretty much every prize there is to win in his discipline, an extremely successful teacher, a successful entrepreneur, and a citizen not only of the university but of the entrepreneurial community around the country and around the world,” Dean said.
The business school and institute have set an ambitious, but important goal to translate the knowledge created by UNC to solve pressing global challenges and drive economic growth, DeSimone said. UNC-Chapel Hill received nearly $546 million in federal research and development funding in 2010, rising to ninth from 16th among leading U.S. research universities.
“I’m a firm believer that those research dollars are the fuel for new technologies that spawn new companies,” DeSimone said. “The opportunity to translate that research into companies is really a great opportunity.”
But UNC’s company spin-out rate is low, he said. And UNC only generates one patent for every $8 million in research grants while MIT, for instance, creates one patent for every $700,000 in research grants.
“To me, that’s a translational issue,” DeSimone told students. “I think the opportunity for bridging the business school with our science and thinking translationally is something we’re really passionate about and interested in trying to do, and a lot of this rests on your shoulders to help us do that. So, we have a big goal at the Kenan Institute to help us bridge science, engineering and business to try to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.”
Kenan Institute Leadership Fellows coordinate the Kenan Institute Welcome Reception each year to connect students with institute faculty and staff who offer opportunities for engaged scholarship.
The Kenan Institute pursues innovation in research, education and public policy that promote entrepreneurship, economic development and global competitiveness. For more information, visit www.kenaninstitute.unc.edu.