University of South Carolina

Growing SC's economy one connection at a time

By Jeff Stensland,, 803-777-3686

The University of South Carolina—the state’s only Carnegie Tier 1 institution of Very High Research Activity—is bolstering its efforts to help create a more diversified economy, grow knowledge and technology-based jobs and make South Carolina more competitive nationally and globally.

The new Office of Economic Engagement—dedicated to fostering statewide economic growth through increased commercialization of cutting edge research, connecting new and existing businesses with university resources and creating an environment where entrepreneurial students, faculty and staff can thrive—will serve as a single point of contact for anyone who wants to partner with the university to meet those goals.

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

“USC has taken an active role in forming business and industry partnerships,” said Pastides.  “We want to leverage our momentum by integrating our activities under one central office and providing a portal for others who want to connect with our human and intellectual capital.”

The new office streamlines existing functions and will:

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

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

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

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

--Provide mentoring and technical assistance to budding companies;

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

The office resulted from a twelve month process in which strategic thinkers from USC and Blue Cross/Blue Shield met to evaluate economic opportunities and discover new strategies for economic engagement. The team evaluated economic development best practices at more than 75 U.S. public research universities.

William D. "Bill" Kirkland will serve as executive director for the new office. Kirkland was managing partner of the South Carolina based LK Global Consulting, which provides early-stage companies with strategic and operational planning, business development and investor management. He also served as the President & CEO of Collexis Holdings Inc, in executive management positions with IBM and Pfizer and is currently executive director and entrepreneur in residence of the USC-Columbia Technology Incubator.

“I’m thrilled and honored to be asked by Dr. Pastides to lead USC’s new Office of Economic Engagement,” Kirkland said. “As the state’s flagship university, USC has a special role to play in creating an environment that encourages economic growth through innovation. I know from personal experience that great things can happen when you match talented, creative people with the right businesses.”

In the last 5 years, 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. There 28 active startup companies using university technologies, and Columbia was recently named one of the best small cities for young entrepreneurs and one the fastest growing cities for new technology jobs.

Don Herriot, who led USC’s Innovista for the past three years, said the new office will help build on recent successes, such as the arrival of Nephron Pharmaceuticals, American Specialty Health and Selah Genomics to the Midlands.

“We’re extremely proud of the progress we’ve made so far, and this new office will make it easier than ever for new ventures and existing businesses to tap into the resources USC has to offer,” Herriot said.

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Posted: 04/29/13 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 04/29/13 @ 12:10 AM | Permalink