How university startups deliver an economic boost – and improve lives – in North Carolina communities

The following is a letter by Judith Cone, Vice Chancellor for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at UNC-Chapel Hill. The letter was published by the Higher Education Works Foundation as part of its EdTalks, a series of op-eds by campus and community leaders about the impact that public colleges and universities have on the lives of North Carolinians.

If the State of North Carolina was actively recruiting a company promising to bring 8,000 good jobs with revenues of $10 billion, that would attract significant interest. Hold that thought.

The next time you’re sitting with a friend or work colleague, ask what comes to mind when he or she hears the word “entrepreneur.” The response likely would be words like “startup company,” “Silicon Valley,” “business plan,” “mobile app,” “revenue,” “economy” or “jobs.”

Do you think they would respond with the word “university?” Not so likely. At first pass, entrepreneurship seems like an odd fit with the view many people have about universities as places people go to learn, teach and research. Of course, these are all fundamental purposes of institutions of higher learning. But quickly becoming core to the mission of many universities is an entrepreneurial approach to converting university-born ideas into practical benefit for people locally and globally.

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