Chancellor Holden Thorp reiterated in a speech Thursday the ideas he and University administrators have been outlining for the Innovate@Carolina program.
The lecture, titled “Beyond the Sciences: Why the World’s Problems Need the Whole University,” stressed the entrepreneurial university as a necessary engine in solving the issues of our time.
“The great problems that need to be addressed are not limited to technical challenges,” Thorp said. “Technologists are poorly equipped to solve these issues.”
The talk, which was followed by a question and answer period, focused on topics discussed in Thorp’s book, “Engines of Innovation: The Entrepreneurial University in the Twenty-First Century,” which he wrote with UNC economics professor Buck Goldstein.
The entrepreneurial university is an important part of Thorp’s vision, the chancellor said.
“There are not many institutions with the infrastructure and resources to address the problems out there,” Thorp said. “There is a base of trust and goodwill that exists for us that doesn’t for a lot of entities.”
Thorp cited ways in which the University has shown its innovative spirit including the minor in entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurship-in-residence position.
The talk was given in the hopes of sparking interest in the Innovate@Carolina plan, a $125 million plan aimed at making the University a world leader in innovation.
Thorp stressed the importance of a liberal arts education as the primary base of American innovation, and the importance of placing culture ahead of structure in the entrepreneurial university.
After his lecture, Thorp fielded questions from faculty, students and others in the audience.
Some of the questions concerned the issue of privatizing too much of the University’s entrepreneurial efforts instead of embracing the University’s relationship with the general public.
“Most people whose interest was in profit ended up leaving the University,” Thorp said about professors seeking profit from their research. “Chasing revenue is a losing proposition.”
Thorp cited numerous ventures through the Campus Y in which undergraduates have contributed to the entrepreneurial spirit of the University.
He also said students tend to contribute to society the most after graduation.
“The vast majority of economic impact is what students do once they leave the University,” he said.
Despite being a scientist himself, Thorp claimed the solution to many problems facing the world lies with stressing the liberal arts, having a greater understanding of the human condition and partnering with entrepreneurs outside the University.
“If you look at the people who have succeeded as innovators, they were broadly educated,” Thorp said. “The myth of the lone innovator working in the garage or dorm room like Mark Zuckerberg needs to be expelled.”
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