Introducing the Penn Center for Innovation

Scientific research is one of the main drivers of technological innovation. Whether it is a drug for treating cancer or a new material for building solar panels, every new invention owes its existence to fundamental discoveries about the workings of the world. The boundaries of this sphere of knowledge are principally pushed in the labs and workshops of research universities like Penn.   

But basic discoveries don’t turn into commercial products on their own. Patents must be filed, business plans devised, seed money, equipment, and space procured. Since the 1980 passage of the Bayh-Dole Act, the right—and responsibility—to engage in this commercialization process rests with researchers, rather than the federal government that largely funds their work.

The University is now launching a new initiative to spearhead these efforts: the Penn Center for Innovation.


“The Penn Center for Innovation will maximize our mission as a research university of putting knowledge into practice for the good of our community and society,” says Penn President Amy Gutmann. “‘Pennovation’—our ability to advance both basic discovery and the society-improving applications those discoveries enable—makes Penn a leader in this vitally important field. The Penn Center for Innovation also will transform our region’s capacity to support an ecosystem of innovative entrepreneurs, companies, and workers all making essential contributions to our collective economic future.”

Dawn Bonnell, Penn’s vice provost for research, says the University’s strategic vision, Penn Compact 2020, revolves around three major concepts: inclusion, innovation and impact.

“The Penn Center for Innovation is our way of achieving two of these three goals at once by giving our innovations the best chance to impact the world at large,” she says.

The Penn Center for Innovation consolidates and unifies the University’s Center for Technology Transfer with other campus organizations devoted to the commercial advancement of University research and development, allowing for a more streamlined experience for Penn researchers and potential business and industry partners. The Center’s new website provides step-by-step instructions and other personalized resources for filing patents, executing licenses, establishing companies through its UPstart program, and more.  

“What we've decided to do,” says John Swartley, Penn’s associate vice provost for research and executive director of the Penn Center for Innovation, “is to combine all those activities into a single organization, to be a one-stop shop for our faculty, staff, and students as well as members of the private sector.”

Pennovation slide