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Triangle

Research universities can learn a lesson from business 

Universities, especially those focusing on research, can and should be agents of societal change, says Information America co-founder Burton B. “Buck” Goldstein, entrepreneur-in-residence in the Department of Economics at UNC Chapel Hill. With their intellectual and financial resources, universities must help confront and solve such challenges as climate change, poverty, childhood diseases and an impending worldwide shortage of clean water. He is co-author with UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp of Engines of Innovation: The Entrepreneurial University in the 21st Century, which will be published next month by the University of North Carolina Press.

How can this be applied to higher education?
Entrepreneurial thinking is nothing new to higher learning. Many of the greatest universities were founded as a partnership between educators and entrepreneurial thinkers. Stanford University is a great example, as are Cornell, Johns Hopkins and, frankly, UNC, where a series of entrepreneurs including [chemist John Motley] Morehead [III] played an important role in creating a vision, employing resources effectively and executing the notion of encouraging excellence. We think a real opportunity is at the intersection of innovation and execution, and entrepreneurial thinking plays a critical role at that intersection.

You’re not talking about entrepreneurship in the business sense.
Entrepreneurship should not be equated with commercialism. The tools are not the same, and we are not talking about maximizing revenues for universities. We are talking about maximizing the impact that universities can have.

You say universities should do more to solve world problems. What’s preventing that?
The sort of intellectual battle you see is, in some ways, between a discipline and work designed to advance within a discipline versus a problem orientation that is multidisciplinary in nature. Engineering is a good example. Engineering is problem-oriented by definition, but many disciplines are focused much more on advancing the nature of the discipline.

Why has it become the university’s role to try to solve society’s problems?
Commercial enterprises can’t afford it. The days of private industry supporting innovation are almost totally past, and most government money for research and innovation ends up at universities.

How is the entrepreneurial approach being used by universities in the Triangle?
If you pick up any alumni magazine at State or Duke or NCCU, the word “entrepreneur” will appear many times. It is permeating the culture at virtually all of the schools. But I don’t feel comfortable talking about anywhere other than UNC.

What’s going on there?
A great example is the DeSimone Lab, where entrepreneurial scientists spun out Liquidia — an emerging company here. Geoffrey Sayre-McCord is head of the philosophy department. He teamed with Gary Parr, a New York investment banker, to build an ethics program in a very entrepreneurial manner. So it’s not just creating companies. It’s creating programs. It’s creating initiatives. It’s saying, ‘Here’s a problem. How do we go after it?’

How can schools do this better?
The key is welcoming outside entrepreneurs to the conversation and the academic community. We, at Carolina, are doing a lot with entrepreneurs-in-residence — in the medical school, in the pharmacy school, throughout the university. Even music has one. You expand the dialogue, and you expand the ways of thinking about opportunities and problems. And that impacts the culture.


The Office of State Budget and Management says Wake County, with 920,307 residents, now is North Carolina’s most-populous county. Mecklenburg has 909,493 residents, with more than two-thirds of them in Charlotte, its largest city. More than half of Wake’s residents live outside its largest city, Raleigh. The county’s growth means it needs 102 new hospital beds by 2013, according to the N.C. State Medical Facilities Plan. That’s likely to trigger a fight among the region’s largest hospital systems, as well as outside systems. Applications for the new beds will be accepted next year.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARKIBM will add 600 jobs at its mortgage-processing unit in Research Triangle Park within two years. The Armonk, N.Y.-based computer-services company already employs about 10,000 there. The jobs will pay an average of about $50,000 a year, less than the Durham County average of $57,772. It also confirmed that it has abandoned plans for a similarly sized expansion in Charlotte, announced in 2008.

FOUR OAKS Becton Dickinson will open a distribution center here next year and create 187 jobs by 2014. The company makes medical supplies and is based in Franklin Lakes, N.J. The jobs will pay average annual salaries of $28,771, below the county average of $31,408.

CHAPEL HILL — Insurance giant Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina plans to cut administrative costs 20% by 2014, partly in response to federal health-care reform. It will cut its $1 billion budget by eliminating open positions, shedding jobs through attrition and early retirement and streamlining operations. It also could lay off some of its 4,400 employees, most of them in the Triangle.

ROXBOROCertainTeed Gypsum plans to open a wallboard factory next year and employ 89 in three years. Salaries will average $55,247, well above the Person County average of $39,524. The Tampa, Fla.-based company will receive $300,000 in state incentives.

Triangle companies raised $112.2 million in venture capital during the second quarter — the biggest haul since the fourth quarter of 2008. It was a 77% increase over the first quarter and 10% over the same quarter of 2009. The largest chunk, $44.5 million, went to Morrisville-based medical-device maker TearScience.

WENDELL — Delta Apparel bought HMP Apparel, which does business as The Cotton Exchange. Greenville, S.C.-based Delta made HMP a division of its Fayetteville-based M.J. Soffee subsidiary. Terms of the deal weren’t announced, but Delta said it would keep HMP’s 290 employees.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARKKuehne + Nagel planned to begin laying off 115 employees here in August, primarily because it lost a shipping contract with Nortel Networks, which dismantled much of its Triangle operation. The Swiss logistics company says the cuts represent most of its employees here.