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Darla Moore School of Business


Laura B. Cardinal

Title: SmartState Endowed Chair and Director, SmartState Center for Innovation + Commercialization
Department: Management
Darla Moore School of Business
Phone: 803-777-5970

Darla Moore School of Business, Room 410G

Resources: SC Innovates
Laura Cardinal


Laura B. Cardinal, Ph.D., is the Endowed Chair and director of the SmartState Center for Innovation + Commercialization at the Moore School. She brings more than 30 years of innovation management education experience to her role as an endowed chair and educator. Cardinal earned her Ph.D. in organizational studies from the University of Texas-Austin where she was a National Science Foundation grant recipient. Her expertise in managing innovation and R&D capabilities and a deep understanding of the evolution of startup companies and control systems led to faculty positions at the University of Houston, Tulane University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Duke University and Southern Methodist University. While at Tulane, Cardinal also was the director of the Burkenroad Institute for the Study of Ethics and Leadership.

Cardinal’s expertise centers on the implementation of innovation goals and strategies and includes the effects of organizational control and coordination on innovation, R&D, new product development teams, product commercialization and founding firm adaptation. Her classes are based on her academic learning as well as direct experience and organizational research on the innovation-related processes of companies such as Sara Lee, Xerox PARC, Rockwell, Reichold Chemicals and Human Systems Innovators, Inc. Cardinal’s classes are designed to equip students with the knowledge and language they need to support and advance innovation and commercialization in corporate and university environments. An engaging leader and lecturer, Cardinal has received awards for both her teaching and research. 

A passionate advocate for technology born out of science and R&D and teaching the next generation of innovation leaders, Cardinal served on the editorial boards of the Academy of Management Journal, the Academy of Management Discoveries, Journal of Organization Design, Organization Science and Strategic Management Journal. She was also an associate editor of the Academy of Management Annals. Cardinal co-chaired the Annual Strategic Management Society 2017 Houston Conference. She served on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Management, the Board of Directors of the Strategic Management Society and on grant panels at the National Science Foundation. 

I teach an eight-week course to Professional MBA and other graduate students called MGMT 733: Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation (students all know it as SMTI – “Smittee”), that is truly a deep dive into the tech and innovation arena. The course has two main focal points. First, understanding and managing innovation within the competitive landscape. Second, learning how corporate R&D, new product developers, and entrepreneurs create new capabilities.

Businesses today understand the credo “Innovate or die.” Look at Apple; every year they introduce a new feature-loaded iPhone. They do it because the market – and their shareholders – expect it. Innovation comes in all forms. It could be a new packaging material, a new cancer drug, a new blockchain app. Students need to understand the impact of innovation, how to manage it and also how to bridge the gap between science/research and a commercial product or service.

I am one of 75 SmartState Endowed Chairs that reside at South Carolina’s three research universities: the University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina. My SmartState Center is focused on Innovation + Commercialization so my research and projects revolve around this field of study. I am currently involved with a project that is mapping the SmartState Centers of Economic Excellence at UofSC, Clemson and MUSC to determine their impact and ongoing opportunities for the state of South Carolina, businesses in our state, those companies seeking to relocate here, and of course for universities and our students who are the future innovators and workforce.

Through the SmartState Program, South Carolina succeeded in recruiting a significant cadre of industry-aligned scientists and researchers who are making significant contributions to the state’s knowledge economy through their research, spinoff technologies, startup companies, linkage with businesses, and teaching students. As the SmartState Endowed Chair for Innovation + Commercialization, my work is centered on leveraging the SmartState assets, the Chairs and their Centers, to benefit organizations and individuals who rely on innovation and the opportunities it affords.

My graduate students will tell you they are intimately involved in my projects and those we do as a class. We’re very hands on so students dive in and walk away with a tremendous new knowledge and skill base.

I grew up reading The Wall Street Journal and was taught to be creative, take risks and color outside the lines. Later in life I discovered a fascination for organizations in all forms and what makes them successful. Company formation, innovation, and bringing new products and services to market is not a linear process. If you’re missing a piece of the puzzle, you fail. It’s messy, fun and complex. I love bringing the process, strategy, and tactics to life for my students. Some would say that I derive my “super power” from teaching SMTI as I am energized by my students.

My partner and I have two rescue dogs, Olive and Martini, who are like our children. We enjoy packing up the car with the girls and heading to Taos, New Mexico, our home away from home. While in New Mexico, we hike, raft, visit our favorite art galleries and eat lots of New Mexican food. Ask me what huevos rancheros “Christmas” is. You might like it.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.