It may be an understatement to suggest that new University of South Florida (USF) President Steven Currall is well-prepared to assume a co-chair role with the Florida High Tech Corridor Council. After all, he literally wrote the book on the university, business and government collaboration in high-tech economic development.
As lead author of Organized Innovation: A Blueprint for Renewing America’s Prosperity, Dr. Currall details the ideal conditions for public/private collaboration on technology commercialization, conditions he immediately recognized in The Corridor.
“One of the things that intrigued me about USF was its status as a comprehensive research university in the heart of a mature and promising innovation ecosystem,” said Currall. “I’ve become a student of such ecosystems, where close collaboration between universities, business and government drive innovation. I’m hoping to deepen this ecosystem that involves USF as an anchor academic institution.”
Deepening USF’s partnerships throughout the region is a top priority for Currall as he begins his tenure as USF’s seventh president. Upon assuming the office, he immediately began a listening tour across the university campuses and region that he expects to last several months. As he put it, his No. 1 goal is to “get out of the office” to meet with students, faculty, staff and alumni, as well as local and regional business, nonprofit, community and government leaders.
That partnership focus is a common refrain in Currall’s history at leading institutions of higher learning. He founded the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship that assisted in the launch of more than 160 tech startups, and later was the founding director of UCL Advances, an entrepreneurship center at University College London. Through various roles at the University of Chicago, the University of California, Davis, and Southern Methodist University, he partnered with regional community leaders, cultivated external relationships and collaborated on strategic planning initiatives that generated millions of dollars in research funding.
He has long recognized university campuses as “neutral meeting grounds” for students, faculty, entrepreneurs and investors, adding “it has always impressed me how willing people with no natural affiliation with their local university still come to that university as a place for the exchange of ideas.”
USF and its regional partnerships are a prime example, and Currall’s task now is to build on the achievements of former President Judy Genshaft and her team.
“We have a great opportunity to capitalize and build on the architecture of academic excellence at USF,” said Currall. “The structure rests on four pillars – undergraduates and their experience, faculty research and creative impact, graduate student quality and experience, and regional partnerships such as The Corridor.