UNC-Chapel Hill invites thought leaders to Innovation Summit

innovatesummitThe University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has invited entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and other thought leaders to help advance innovative solutions to local and global challenges at “Outside In: 2015 Chancellor’s Innovation Summit” on Friday, Oct. 9.

The day-long program, which will engage stakeholders in a broader conversation on how the University can impact global innovation, will also include a creative, public collaboration between students, faculty and staff that features effective solutions UNC-Chapel Hill has developed in partnership with communities in the state and around the world. A number of College of Arts and Sciences faculty and a young College alumnus are involved in the summit.

At a time when public universities are being turned to for solutions to pressing challenges, Chancellor Carol L. Folt and University leaders are charting an ambitious course for Carolina to be a place where innovators consistently put important ideas to use. Currently, more than 262 of the 301 startups launched at UNC-Chapel Hill are active, with 150 of those located in North Carolina. Collectively, these commercial and nonprofit ventures have raised more than $5.5 billion and created thousands of jobs.

Startups are only one mechanism for turning knowledge into action, however, and the Summit will call on partners to join Carolina’s efforts.

“Finding solutions to the complex problems of our time requires collaboration from all sectors of our community,” said Chancellor Folt. “And it’s critically important to have participation from many types of people with different backgrounds, ideas and experiences if we hope to achieve the greatest outcomes.”

Through “Outside In,” the University hopes to draw on the deep experience of its attendees. Bob Geolas, who is currently leading the vision for the future of the Research Triangle Park, believes the whole region will benefit from the kinds of partnerships that Carolina can create through this event.

“UNC-Chapel Hill is bringing together industry, the entrepreneurial sector, funders and state leaders to create a plan for the future,” said Geolas. “We are excited to be a part of it.”

The University community is invited to participate in the Summit from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. when “Outside In” features six interactive experiences on Polk Place in the center of campus. Each installation highlights a challenge such as preventing the spread of infectious disease, economic dislocation or environmental protection. Assembled and curated by student teams, each experience tells a story of seeing a need, responding to it with inventive solutions and making those solutions real.

The six projects, which will be showcased in displays made from materials that will later be donated to Habitat for Humanity, include:

  • Malaria and Pregnancy: Tiny Parasite, Enormous Impact – The Infectious Diseases Evolution and Epidemiology Lab (IDEEL) Team at Carolina addresses the diversity and scope of one of the world’s most persistent parasites and its impact on the world’s poorest populations. IDEEL is studying malaria and pregnancy, relapsing malaria, drug resistant malaria, the diversity of malaria antigens and drivers of malaria transmission—all areas that will help improve the efficiency of vaccines and play a key role in the goal of completely eradicating the parasite.
  • Overburden: Appalachian community battling for their land and livelihood – Professor Chad Stevens, UNC School of Media and Journalism, has spent 10 years in remote Whitesville, West Virginia documenting the community struggle as those for and against mining and the practice of mountaintop removal face each other. Stevens wove himself into the fabric of the community, illuminating the problems and helping forge the way to change and improve lives.
  • Next Level: One World, Many Beats – Professor Mark Katz, director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, and his team travel the world conducting music workshops using hip hop and dance as a universal language between cultures. Next Level works with underserved communities, and since 2013 the group has traveled to Bosnia, Bangladesh, India, Senegal, Serbia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe using hip hop to foster cultural exchange, entrepreneurship and conflict resolution.
  • Listening to Oysters – Professor Bernie Herman, chair of the Department of American Studies and George B. Tindall Professor of Southern Studies, is discovering the economic impact of restoring the historic oyster populations of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. He believes that oyster culture and other local foodways possess a powerful means for positive environmental and economic change.
  • Unlocking the Universe – Dr. Laura Mersini-Houghton, associate professor of Physics and Astronomy, has revealed new findings about the existence of black holes that may challenge our understanding of the origins of the Universe. Her research, taking place on UNC-Chapel Hill campus, and that of her colleagues like Dr. Jack Ng, Kenan Professor of Physics, is part of a legacy of Carolina’s directive to explore space.
  • Helping Hands: Not Just a Senior Project – UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus Jeff Powell completed a senior project for his biomedical engineering degree that has developed into a non-profit called The Helping Hands Project, which provides free of charge 3-D printed mechanical hands for children with disabled hands. Powell’s hands can be printed on a standard, at-home 3-D printer and cost around twenty dollars, which makes them not only an innovative solution, but also a cost-effective one.

The Innovation Summit is a production of Innovate Carolina, the University’s initiative to put important ideas to use. Spearheaded by the Chancellor’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Innovate Carolina encourages and supports creative ideas leading to commercial ventures, social enterprises or policy change. The Innovate Carolina Network provides assistance to UNC-Chapel Hill innovators through a range of programs including educational opportunities, funding sources, meeting spaces, start up services and events.