Jefferson Innovation 2011

Solving Economic Challenges Through Innovation

Mary Catherine Wellons
Monticello University of Virginia
Source: Wikipedia

For two days, some of the best and brightest minds in technology, education and business will gather at the University of Virginia for a conversation about how to encourage innovators and entrepreneurs to create jobs, spur economic growth, and ensure global competitiveness. It's called the Jefferson Innovation Summit and it is not a typical conference.

"Unlike conventional conferences, we've dispensed with the idea of having speakers or even an audience - no keynotes, no canned remarks," says Sean Carr, executive chair. "Instead, the Summit will try to encourage meaningful dialogue among all the delegates."

The participating delegates encompass a wide range of executives, entrepreneurs, and innovators. Some standouts: Aneesh Chopra, The White House Chief Technology Officer; Scott Case, Startup America Partnership CEO; William Hawkins, former Medtronic CEO; Premal Shah, Kiva Co-founder; and Oliver Kuttner, Edison2 Founder and Automotive "X Prize" Winner. A full list of all delegates can be found here.

The signature event is the Rotunda Dialogue, which takes place on October 11. Moderated by CNBC's Tyler Mathisen, twelve delegates will take part in a hypothetical scenario highlighting the challenges the nation faces in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship (the Dialogue will be streamed live on hypothetical scenario, developed by Fred Friendly Seminars in collaboration with CNBC, the Summit's official media partner, will take place in the Dome Room of Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda.

"There's no better place to explore the subject of innovation than the University of Virginia," says Mathisen, a 1976 graduate of the University of Virginia. "After all, it was founded by a true innovator, a man possessed of perhaps the greatest imagination our country has ever known. To keep moving forward, we need to channel Jefferson's imagination and ambition."

Carr hopes that the 2-day Summit will challenge leadership "to focus on ways to eliminate the obstacles that innovators and entrepreneurs face every day." The Summit is hosted by the Batten Institute part of the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, where Carr also serves as Director of Intellectual Capital and Research.

In 1820, Thomas Jefferson said that the University of Virginia "will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." In keeping with Jefferson's hope for the University, the Summit will generate a Declaration of Innovation at the conclusion of the event based upon the ideas and solutions proposed by its delegates and participants.

With that Declaration, the Jefferson Innovation Summit hopes to have a lasting impact and directly address America's entrepreneurial future.