Developing Innovation Ecosystems Around Universities

As Vice Provost for Innovation at the University of Southern California and the Executive Director of the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation, Krisztina Holly is dedicated to helping students, academics and entrepreneurs make maximum impact with their ideas. Krisztina tells IM a bit more about her experiences.

What is innovation management to you?

Managing innovation can be a bit of a perplexing term to me, because the source of most true innovation is rarely management. To effectively drive innovation, one must nurture a culture of innovation and innovative practices at all levels inside the organization, yet realize that the most valuable asset may be a healthy ability to connect externally and embrace change.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

Helping brilliant people harness their ideas to create impact. It’s one thing to have success as an entrepreneur yourself, but it’s another to be able to use these skills to help others tap into their own creativity and entrepreneurialism. I’m also driven by creating models that can be replicated and sharing best practices. It’s incredibly rewarding.

And the most frustrating parts?

With so many stakeholders with different interests like researchers, university administrators, investors, industry, and so on, it can be a balancing act to meet and exceed people’s expectations. However, having so many groups pulling us in different directions is a great problem to have because it means that what we are doing is of high importance. And it certainly keeps things interesting!

What’s your next big challenge?

The next big challenge is to help bring together the right stakeholders to accelerate the impact of our universities nationally and beyond. We as taxpayers spend over $40 billion a year on university research, which is really important, but only a sliver of that funding goes to programs that help turn those ideas into new products, services, companies, and jobs. Despite that, university research has been a core part of our economic growth in the last half century. I have been spending a lot of time in Washington, D.C. promoting the importance of high-growth entrepreneurship and developing innovation ecosystems around universities. Federal policy such as described in my IMPACT proposal would be a worthy and attainable goal.

About Krisztina “Z” Holly

Krisztina “Z” Holly is an innovation expert who lives, works, and plays at the intersection of entrepreneurship, technology, design, and academia. As vice provost for innovation at the University of Southern California and founding executive director for the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation, she leads a team of over 30 to help faculty and students across USC’s 17 schools and the College to make maximum impact with their ideas — whether as startups, nonprofits, new products, or licenses. She is active in many non-profit and advisory roles, and serves on the U.S. National Advisory Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
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