CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA — At the age of 17, Holden Thorp (@chanthorp) placed fifth in a nationally televised Rubik’s cube competition on the ABC show That’s Incredible! At 24, he received a doctorate in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology after studying for three years instead of five. And at 43, he was named chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, becoming one of the country’s youngest university presidents.
Today, Thorp is trying to turn this 29,000-student public university into an engine of economic innovation. A business owner who has twice launched $25 million pharmaceutical startups, Thorp has streamlined the process for faculty members to turn their discoveries into private companies. He has made “entrepreneurship” a minor for all undergraduate students.
And Thorp has co-written a book, Engines of Innovation: The Entrepreneurial University in the 21st Century, with the university’s “entrepreneur in residence” — a former venture capital banker. It calls for the top 125 U.S. research universities to revitalize the American economy. (www.revupinnovation.com)
“The jobs of the near and distant future,” he told me, “are going to be for those who create them for themselves.”
Thorp and Goldstein insist they are not backing the commercialization of academia. Their definition of entrepreneurship is a broad one, they say, that includes social entrepreneurship.
“It’s not Donald Trump,” Goldstein said.
Former Harvard University President Derek Bok, whose book “Universities in the Marketplace: the Commercialization of Higher Education,” looked at the phenomenon...