Great minds explore the social value of innovation
UA's McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship hosts colloquium of thinkers from U.S., Canada, and Europe
TUCSON, Ariz. – March 18, 2008 – Measuring the commercial impact of an innovation or invention is a vital step in the entrepreneurial process, and one that investors can analyze for decision-making. But what about social value? No standard yet exists to quantify the intangible benefit to society.
Last month, 25 scholars and professionals gathered in Tucson, Ariz., to share research and discuss possible metrics to gauge the social value of individual innovations in the university environment. These great minds came to the city from a spectrum of disciplines to participate in a Kauffman Foundation-funded colloquium hosted by the Chris and Carol McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship and The University of Arizona Office of Technology Transfer.
“We had economists, sociologists, university administrators, and technology transfer experts all coming together around this one topic,” said Sherry Hoskinson, director of the McGuire Center. Over the course of the three-day colloquium, participants reviewed existing literature, as well as papers authored specifically for the colloquium, then gathered for sessions to explore topics such as demonstrating social and economic value of individual innovations, what metrics and measures might be used, and the implications of developing a pilot program at The University of Arizona with the intention to transfer knowledge to other institutions.
Among the experts attending from across the U.S., Canada, and Europe were Walter W. “Woody” Powell, faculty affiliate at the Center for Social Innovation at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and former UA professor; Kevin Cullen, director of research and enterprise at the University of Glasgow; Gary Rhoades, professor and department head of the UA Center for the Study of Higher Education; Jon Soderstrom from Yale University; and Patrick L. Jones from the UA Office of Technology Transfer. Soderstrom and Jones are president and immediate past-president of the Association of University Technology Managers, respectively.
“There are no systematic ways to collect this data, and it’s hard to be predictive in this area,” said Jones. “The colloquium brought together a number of different perspectives – there were people from different disciplines who offered different ways to think about the subject.”
Hoskinson and the McGuire Center team have embraced the colloquium outcomes. “We’re planning to run an experiment over the next year, starting with a feasibility study,” she explained. “We will build social valuation into the McGuire Center’s Idea Path curriculum and charge student venture teams with forecasting measures based on the problem they plan to solve through their innovations.” At the conclusion of the year-long experiment, the Center will have data from venture teams which can then be analyzed for thematic trends and used to develop a protocol for a larger research project. “We hope this will form the foundation for a grant-funded study,” explained Hoskinson. “Ultimately, we’d like to see this become another avenue that the McGuire Center will pioneer.”
The Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona is internationally recognized for pioneering research, innovative curriculum, distinguished faculty, excellence in management information systems, entrepreneurship, and social responsibility. U.S. News & World Report ranks the Eller undergraduate program #12 among public business schools and two of its programs are among the top 20 — Entrepreneurship and MIS. U.S. News & World Report ranks the Eller MBA Full-Time program #48 in the U.S. The College is among the leaders of business schools generating grant funds for research. In addition to a Full-Time MBA program, the Eller College offers the 25th ranked Evening MBA program, the Eller Executive MBA and the Online MBA. The Eller College of Management supports more than 5,000 undergraduate and 600 graduate students on the UA campus in beautiful Tucson, Arizona, and a satellite campus in Phoenix.
Liz Warren-Pederson, Eller College of Management
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