The University Day Challenge: Innovate!

As we celebrate the University of North Carolina’s 217th anniversary on this University Day, chancellor Holden Thorp introduces a new project called “Innovate@Carolina: Important Ideas for a Better World” to lead the university forward. This three-year roadmap, described in detail at, is designed to “build a culture of innovation that permeates every corner of campus, from the chemist in Caudill labs to the poet in Greenlaw Hall.”

Thorp is putting into practice the vision for the university environment he describes in his new book with entrepreneur Buck Goldstein, Engines of Innovation: The Entrepreneurial University in the Twenty-First Century. In the book, Thorp and Goldstein make the case for the pivotal role of research universities as agents of societal change. They argue that universities must use their vast intellectual and financial resources to confront global challenges such as climate change, extreme poverty, childhood diseases, and an impending worldwide shortage of clean water. They provide not only an urgent call to action but also a practical guide for our nation’s leading institutions to make the most of the opportunities available to be major players in solving the world’s biggest problems. You can read our interview with Thorp and Goldstein or listen to WCHL’s radio interview to learn more.

With Innovate@Carolina, Thorp is following his own advice to help UNC act as a transformative setting where great ideas are born and shared.

At, you can meet innovators in the business world and the university world, watch interviews, learn about best practices, and more. It’s a great resource for innovators everywhere. Keep up with the authors by following Thorp’s blog and Goldstein’s Twitter feed @buckgold1.

Holden Thorp and Buck Goldstein. Photo by Dan Sears.

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed to to Huffington Post and beyond, Thorp and Goldstein are spreading the message about what universities can and should do, even–and especially–in times of financial uncertainty.

UNC has long had a reputation as a world-class institution, but Thorp and Goldstein’s vision for the university as an “engine of innovation” is an inspiring call to stand up and lead at a time when many institutions of higher learning–particularly those that depend on public funds–are in a hunker-down-and-hold-on mode. If we all take a shot at incorporating innovation into our own lives we just might, indeed, change the world.


p.s. And just for fun: Thorp and Goldstein made the cover of the Fall 2010 issue of Carolina Arts & Sciences magazine. Check out this video from the day of the photo shoot (produced by Exum Photography):