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Darla Moore School of Business


Laura B. Cardinal

Title: SmartState Endowed Chair and Director, SmartState Center for Innovation + Commercialization
Department: Management
Darla Moore School of Business
Phone: 803-777-5970

Darla Moore School of Business, Room 410G

Resources: SC Innovates
Laura Cardinal headshot


Laura B. Cardinal, Ph.D., is the Endowed Chair and director of the SmartState Center for Innovation + Commercialization at the Moore School. She brings more than 30 years of innovation management education experience to her role as an endowed chair and educator. Cardinal earned her Ph.D. in organizational studies from the University of Texas-Austin where she was a National Science Foundation grant recipient. Her expertise in managing innovation and R&D capabilities and a deep understanding of the evolution of startup companies and control systems led to faculty positions at the University of Houston, Tulane University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Duke University and Southern Methodist University. While at Tulane, Cardinal also was the director of the Burkenroad Institute for the Study of Ethics and Leadership.

Cardinal’s specialization centers on the implementation of innovation goals and strategies and includes understanding how organizational control and coordination affect innovation, R&D, new product development teams, product commercialization and founding firm adaptation. Her classes are based on her academic learning as well as direct experience and organizational research on the innovation-related processes of companies such as Sara Lee, Rockwell, Reichhold Chemicals and Human Systems Innovators, Inc. Cardinal’s classes are designed to equip students with the knowledge, toolkit, and language they need to strategically support and advance innovation in corporate and university environments. An engaging leader and lecturer, Cardinal has received awards for both her teaching and research.

A passionate advocate for technology born out of science and R&D and teaching the next generation of innovation leaders, Cardinal served on the editorial boards of the Academy of Management Journal, the Academy of Management Discoveries, Journal of Organization Design, Organization Science, and Strategic Management Journal. She was also an associate editor of the Academy of Management Annals and a co-editor for a Feature Topic at Organizational Research Methods: How to conduct rigorous and impactful literature reviews? Cardinal served as the Chair of the Council of Chairs for the South Carolina SmartState Program and the Program Chair of the SmartState Annual Forum in 2022 and co-chaired the Annual Strategic Management Society 2017 Houston Conference. She sat on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Management, the Board of Directors of the Strategic Management Society and on grant panels at the National Science Foundation.

The Center’s educational mission is to create programs designed for business students and non-business students alike. In fulfillment of this mandate, I teach courses for Professional MBA students and other graduate students across the USC campus. The courses are part of the graduate Strategic Innovation Certificate (SIC). The SIC courses were created to advance the skills needed to strategically manage innovation, science, and technology in the workforce. One course in the SIC is MGMT 733 Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation (students all know it as SMTI – “Smittee”), that is truly a deep dive into the tech and innovation arena. Another course, MGMT 776 Strategic Innovation Planning and Processes referred to as SIPP, hones in on the science behind innovation and how that influences strategic decision-making.

Innovation is vital to a business’s continued existence and manifests in different forms. It could be a new packaging material, a new cancer drug, a new blockchain app. Students ought to understand the impact of innovation, how to manage it, and how to bridge the gap between scientific research and a commercial product or service. The best path for success is to understand innovation from a strategic perspective. This means understanding the “big picture” of strategy and innovation and the “pixels” of science and technology that underly it all. You need both perspectives, and they need to be fused together within each individual. It is no longer adequate to comprise diverse teams of singular specialists – e.g., made up of one engineer, one accountant, one supply chain expert, one chemist, one human resource expert and so on – to handle the pace of change in innovation, science, and technology. These skill sets and understanding must be fused within everyone. Each person is internally more diverse in unique ways that then form the building blocks of teams and organizations making strategic decisions concerning innovation. The courses in the SIC are dedicated to developing the competencies for achieving this. But don’t just take my word for it, read what a few of my students have to say.

I am one of 75 SmartState Endowed Chairs that reside at South Carolina’s three research universities: the University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina. My SmartState Center is focused on Innovation + Commercialization and my scholarly research revolves around this field of study with a strategy lens as fully described in my bio above.

Through the SmartState Program, South Carolina succeeded in recruiting a significant cadre of industry-aligned scientists and researchers who are making significant contributions to the state’s knowledge economy through their research, spinoff technologies, startup companies, linkages with businesses, and teaching students. As the SmartState Endowed Chair for Innovation + Commercialization, through the Strategic Innovation Certificate our partnership with other SmartState Centers leverages the SmartState assets, the Chairs, and their Centers.

My graduate students will tell you they are intimately involved in class projects. We’re very hands-on so students dive in and walk away with a tremendous new knowledge and skill base.

I grew up reading The Wall Street Journal and was taught to be creative, take risks and color outside the lines. Later in life, I discovered a fascination for organizations in all forms and what makes them successful. Company formation, innovation, and bringing new products and services to market is not a linear process. If you’re missing a piece of the puzzle, you fail. It’s messy, fun, and complex. I love bringing the process, strategy, and tactics to life for my students. Some would say that I derive my “superpower” from teaching in the SIC as I am energized by my students. See the USC Today Takeover Edition.

My spouse and I have two rescue dogs, Olive and Martini, who are like our children. We enjoy packing up the car with the girls and heading to New Mexico, our home away from home. While in New Mexico, we hike, raft, visit our favorite art galleries, go to the opera, and eat lots of New Mexican food. Ask me what huevos rancheros “Christmas” is. You might like it.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.