Penn celebrates its robust innovative spirit

Intellectual light bulbs are known to illuminate across academic disciplines at Penn, igniting new approaches to innovation and technology transfer while powering valuable real-world applications.

On Friday, Oct. 31, Penn students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends are invited to honor the University’s culture of innovation at “Celebrating Innovation at Penn,” a University-wide gathering at the future home of the Pennovation Center from 12:30 to 4 p.m. at the South Bank, 3401 Grays Ferry Ave.

In addition to tours, networking, and student spotlights, the afternoon will also feature the 2014 David and Lyn Silfen University Forum, hosted by Penn President Amy Gutmann and featuring acclaimed author Walter Isaacson. Isaacson will discuss his new book, “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.”

“We are creating an innovation ecosystem at Penn that is expanding at an unprecedented pace,” Gutmann says. “The celebration at the South Bank is designed to highlight the impressive range of innovative activities already taking place on campus.”

Throughout the day, faculty members will give brief “Pennovation Talks” on leading-edge research projects. Presenters, including the School of Arts & SciencesA.T. Charlie Johnson, the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Katherine Kuchenbecker, the Perelman School of Medicine’s John Trojanowski, and the Wharton School’s Karl Ulrich, will discuss topics such as robotic surgery, Alzheimer’s as an infectious disease, and the importance of innovation.

“The research discoveries hatched at Penn are having a real societal and economic impact in our region, our country, and the world,” says Vice Provost for Research Dawn Bonnell. “During this event, people can interact with thought leaders at Penn and see inspiring examples of innovation in a variety of venues. We will also be highlighting the infrastructure the University is creating to further support entrepreneurship, industry and community partnering, and technology transfer.”

The celebration will also include a ceremonial ground-breaking for the Pennovation Center, a three-story, 52,000-square-foot building that will serve as a touchstone for innovation at Penn.

“The Pennovation Center will be a dynamic hub that maximizes Penn’s impact by bringing together researchers, students, and the private sector to foster innovation and development in the region,” Gutmann says. “Our signature strength in integrating knowledge across disciplines gives this approach to innovation and technology transfer new muscle, and important new momentum.”

Comprised of large and open non-traditional spaces, the Center will spur entrepreneurial activities, creative collaborations, and new approaches to the commercialization of research discoveries. The Center forms a central part of Penn’s South Bank—a 23-acre development at 34th Street and Grays Ferry Avenue—that is designed to encourage economic development and entrepreneurial activities at Penn and beyond.

The building will also house space for the Penn Center for Innovation (PCI), the University’s newest vehicle for commercialization of academic research. PCI will help Penn researchers partner with business, industry, and venture capital by connecting campus operations devoted to technology transfer and commercial partnerships.

“What’s really unique about PCI is that this is a new model for what we think of as tech transfer,” Bonnell says. “It provides services to the Penn community and creates opportunities for spin-off companies and corporate alliances that will enrich our intellectual environment. PCI is not just for tech transfer—it’s going to be a point of entry for the private sector and the business community to access Penn.”

The afternoon will culminate with a networking reception and tours.

University shuttle buses will be available to transport attendees to and from the event with stops at 36th and Walnut streets, 37th and Spruce streets, 38th and Locust Walk, and 40th and Locust Walk.

The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. To register, visit

South Bank