Carolina Spotlight: Bill Kirkland
Bill Kirkland is taking on South Carolina’s economy by connecting the state’s flagship university to the business community. He is heading up USC’s new Office of Economic Engagement, where he hopes to enhance the culture of entrepreneurship on campus.
The university recently started the Office of Economic Engagement and you’ll be heading that up. What’s the mission of the office?
Simply put, the mission is to help grow South Carolina’s economy. The office will act as a single point of contact for any business or entity that wants to tap into the expertise and creativity here at USC. There’s tremendous momentum building within the USC system for everything from developing and commercializing new technologies to encouraging entrepreneurship and risk-taking. The task of the new office is to harness that momentum and better connect it to the outside world.
What’s your background?
Most recently, I’ve served as executive director and entrepreneur in residence of the USC-Columbia Technology Incubator. I’ve also worked in executive management for IBM and Pfizer; served as managing partner of Columbia-based LK Global Consulting, which provides early-stage companies with strategic and operational assistance; and president and CEO of Collexis Holdings Inc. I’m a USC graduate and my wife, Carol, and I have two kids, Jackson, 12, and Ella Grace, 5.
Why should economic development matter to the USC community?
We’re the state’s flagship research institution and have a special obligation to contribute to the quality of life in our state. Our fortunes rise and fall together. A stronger, more diverse S.C. economy makes it easier to recruit top faculty and students and also helps ensure that this is a vibrant place for talented graduates to live and work.
What’s happening to Innovista?
Innovista remains important and will become a part of the new office, but more focused on physical space for public-private partnerships. Selah Genomics, which recently moved into Horizon I research facility, is a great example of how those partnerships can work. The Office of Economic Engagement has a broader role that also includes technology commercialization, business outreach and recruitment, working with the USC/Columbia Incubator, and coordinating with various centers at individual colleges dedicated to fostering student and faculty innovation, like the Faber Entrepreneurship Center at the Moore School of Business.
Any final thoughts?
When you look at all the intellectual capital and creative energy that exist on USC campuses — from faculty, staff and students — the opportunity to make great things happen is right in front of us. I consider it a privilege to be a part of that and I’m very excited to get started.
This story originally appeared in the USC Times. You can read the full issue online here.
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