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USC launches Office of Economic Engagement

By Jeff Stensland,, 803-777-3686

Entrepreneurial spirit and creative energy can’t be artificially manufactured. They have to come about organically through a willingness to take risks and desire to do things better. They can also have an infectious quality, inspiring some, but forcing everyone to take note.

That spirit and energy is alive at USC--among faculty, students, staff and business partners who want to grow.

To better harness it, USC is creating the new Office of Economic Engagement. The office, which launches in July, will be dedicated to encouraging statewide economic growth through the increased commercialization of cutting edge research; connecting new and existing businesses with university resources; and fostering an environment where entrepreneurial Gamecocks can thrive.

Why now? Consider in the last five years alone, USC has filed more than 400 invention disclosures on behalf of faculty, applied for more than 250 new patent applications with 66 US patents issued and executed 86 licenses representing 120 technologies. The USC-Columbia Incubator has graduated 31 companies and currently has 45 tenants. And there are now 28 active startup companies using university technologies, creating everything from new phone apps to fuel cell technology.

At the same time, existing companies are increasingly tapping into the intellectual capital USC has to offer. Recent examples of those include Selah Genomics, American Specialty Health and Nephron Pharmaceuticals.

The mission of Office of Economic Engagement is to coordinate and replicate those successes. Its responsibilities include:

--Serving as a liaison to connect businesses with USC’s intellectual property assets;

--Acting as the single coordinating point of contact for economic development organizations;

--Coordinating with centers and institutes at USC dedicated to program-specific entrepreneurship, including the Moore School of Business’ Faber Entrepreneurship Center and the Kennedy Pharmacy Innovation Center at the South Carolina College of Pharmacy, as well as strengthening research ties with existing industry, such as aerospace;

--Managing current and future Innovista district facilities dedicated to commercializing USC research, including the IdeaLabs;

--Providing mentoring and technical assistance to budding companies;

--Leading the new Council for USC Economic Engagement, a group consisting of representatives from USC’s eight campus system.

USC President Harris Pastides said creation of the new office will help continue existing momentum while spreading it to other parts of the state.

“The name ‘economic engagement’ stems from our desire to engage with business, government and community economic development stakeholders,” Pastides said. “It is my belief, that through intensified economic engagement, we will better meet the needs of South Carolinians.”

To lead the new office, Pastides has chosen William D. “Bill” Kirkland to serve as executive director. Kirkland has a long record of business success, both in the corporate world (IBM, Pfizer, Collexis Holdings) and fostering early-stage start-ups as executive director and “entrepreneur in residence” of the USC-Columbia Technology Incubator.

“As the state’s flagship university, USC has a special role to play in creating an environment that encourages economic growth through innovation,” Kirkland said. “I know from personal experience that great things can happen when you match talented, creative people with the right businesses.”


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Posted: 04/29/13 @ 5:00 AM | Updated: 04/28/13 @ 11:56 PM | Permalink



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