about how to plant the seeds for the next big industry or set of companies, but also about how to help small business people become more entrepreneurial, to make the family business more successful. “Innovation can be small ideas that work, as well as big ideas that transform an economy.”
Mr. Goldin added that in a broader sense innovation should be considered to occur within a kind of ecosystem. He suggested that the university’s task was not to be the center of this system, but to help build it. He said he selected San Diego to start his company because that region already had a business ecosystem. He had met most of his employees when they were undergraduates at the university. He brought them into his company, and then some professors naturally followed. The university and the business community, he said, were part of the same “natural ecosystem.”
Removing the Regulatory Barriers
Charles Wessner of the National Research Council suggested that if the university intended to take entrepreneurial risks, it should work with legislators to remove regulations that hamper risk-taking. “I think if you want the university to be a research business,” he said, “then you need to give it some of the freedoms of a research business.” He cited the new College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering near Albany, New York, which had emerged more quickly without the restrictive State University of New York (SUNY) regulations, and the Chalmers University of Technology model in Sweden, where freedom from Ministry of Education restrictions opened the way. The second question, he said, related to the challenge of “feeding” an innovation ecosystem through early-stage financing. “It’s one thing to say that you’re ready to start a company, but having the idea is not enough. You need private equity in order to grow.”
Barry Weinman said he had found a widespread misunderstanding of the term “private” and of the responsibility to use private equity. Private organizations, he said, include not only venture capital funds and companies, but also universities, trust funds, and endowments of many kinds. Such organizations, he said, tend to invest in organizations that support entrepreneurship. In Hawaii, however, he noted the presence of a large capital base that tends to invest primarily on the mainland and could play a meaningful role in promoting Hawaii-based innovation with more of a local focus. He mentioned the example of the Kamehameha Schools,4 whose endowment is comparable to leading tertiary institutions in the United States, and the employees unions, both of which could contribute to innovation and commercialization in Hawaii. “We have great talent in Hawaii,” he said, “and some great research at the university. We can compete
4Kamehameha Schools, founded in 1887, is supported by a trust created by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, now valued at $6.2 billion. The school system, which supports K-12 and preschool education throughout the state, is the largest independent school system in the United States.