The culture and practice of innovation has been central to Penn’s mission since America’s first inventor-entrepreneur, Benjamin Franklin, founded the University more than two centuries ago. The Penn Compact 2022 renews this forward-thinking tradition to meet the needs of its 21st century faculty and students as they create new knowledge and develop new technology for the advancement of society. Today, thanks to long term investments and consistent support from executive leadership, Penn is proud to be one of the nation’s top research universities. Recently, the University was ranked by Reuters among the Top 5 most innovative universities in the world.
Dr. Gutmann has helped Penn launch a brand-new campus devoted to innovation—the 23-acre Pennovation Works. At the heart of the site is the Pennovation Center, a business incubator and laboratory where researchers, entrepreneurs, and industry partners—including The Hershey Company, Johnson & Johnson Innovation (JLABS), and Qualcomm Research Philadelphia—collaborate to solve pressing real-world problems. The Penn Center for Innovation has also been established to fast-track Penn technologies to meet social and environmental needs.
Other prominent innovation initiatives at Penn include the President’s Innovation Prize, which incentivizes students to devise and develop commercial projects with social impact. Dr. Gutmann established the annual prize to provide student teams with all the support necessary to put their Penn-generated knowledge, skills, and experiences into practice immediately upon graduating.
The Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) professorships recruit faculty renowned for their groundbreaking, discipline-defying work. By providing each PIK professor with appointments in two or more Penn schools, this initiative leverages the extensive network of meaningful exchanges that take place among the University’s 12 schools. Most recently, Dr. Gutmann announced world-renowned social psychologist Dolores Albarracín, who has joint appointments in the Annenberg School for Communication and the School of Nursing, as Penn’s 28th PIK professor.
From the time ENIAC, the world’s first computer, was developed and introduced on campus in 1946, Penn Engineering has continued a tradition of leadership and cutting-edge research in fields including autonomous robots, computer vision, cybersecurity, embedded systems and IoT, mechanobiology and the physics of cancer, metamaterials, network neuroscience, photonic computing, privacy algorithms, self-assembling nanomaterials, and tribology. These initiatives have only been boosted in recent years with new facilities including the Singh Center for Nanotechnology.
Across campus, new interdisciplinary hubs for innovation have been strategically created, including the Smilow Center for Translational Research, Wharton Academic Research Building, the Center for Health Care Innovation, and the soon-to-open New Patient Pavilion and Vagelos Energy Building. In addition, under Dr. Gutmann’s guidance, innovation programs that touch on a variety of disciplines, spanning the likes of the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research and the Mack Institute for Innovation Management to the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, have been able to flourish.
In the health sciences, the Perelman School of Medicine offers a flexible MD curriculum allowing students to participate in dual-degree programs, including the MD/PhD and MD/JD along with several master’s programs. In 2021, 66% of the 156 Penn Medicine graduates pursued more than just the MD Degree, including 64 students who earned a total of 76 certificates in addition to the dual degree students. Among these programs is the NIH-funded MD/PhD Medical Scientist Training Program, which was one of the first of its kind and is the largest in the country, with 217 students. An unusually high percentage of these students—nearly 20 percent—earn their PhDs outside of the biological sciences, reflecting Penn’s strong emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration and the MD/PhD program’s embrace of the One University concept.
Penn Medicine’s foundational connectivity among research, clinical trials, and patient care established Penn as a pioneer of translational medicine, a title that rings true today. Penn Medicine’s groundbreaking research has resulted in 13 FDA approvals for new treatments including the first personalized cellular therapy for cancer, and Penn researchers and clinicians have propelled advances in testing, treatment, and prevention of COVID-19 that has helped to give hope to billions of people worldwide during the coronavirus pandemic. For instance, Perelman School of Medicine researchers developed the mRNA vaccine technology that is a critical component of Pfizer/BioNTech’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines, which are being deployed globally in the fight against the virus.