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 2020 renews this forward-thinking tradition to suit the needs of its 21st century faculty and students as they create new knowledge and develop new technology for the advancement of society.
Foremost among these goals is a campus conducive to generating ideas: a campus with facilities such as the Penn Center for Innovation, which fast-tracks Penn technologies to meet social and environmental needs; the Pennovation Works, a 23-acre former heavy industrial site and soon-to-be innovation campus; and the Pennovation Center, Pennovation Works’ flagship business incubator and laboratory where researchers, entrepreneurs, and industry partners collaborate to solve pressing real-world problems.
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.
These exchanges range from single-project partnerships to formal programs such as the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science, which advances the science of the mind through the collaboration of investigators from widely disparate disciplines, and the Nano/Bio Interface Center, which joins researchers from the across Penn schools to advance nanoscale science and engineering.
In the health sciences, the Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM) offers a flexible curriculum allowing students to earn combined degrees in one of 10 dual-degree programs: In 2016, 57% of Penn Med students received dual degrees. Among these programs is the MD/PhD Medical Scientist Training Program which was one of the first of its kind and one of the largest in the country, with 180 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.
Collaborative research is one of Penn Medicine’s great strengths, evidenced by the fact that PSOM faculty receive more multi-investigative awards [grants awarded to multiple researchers for a common core project] than any other institution in the country. PSOM’s foundational connectivity among research, clinical trials, and patient care established Penn as a pioneer of translational medicine. And the life-saving discoveries and advances being made every day at PSOM demonstrate that we haven’t stopped innovating since.