In a press conference Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, Furman University President Elizabeth Davis announced that the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) will join the city of Greenville’s economic development team in locating offices in downtown Greenville with NEXT, an entrepreneurial-support organization that operates under the Greenville Chamber Foundation.
“Furman is excited to be part of this shared working space with NEXT and the city of Greenville,” Davis said. “This is an excellent opportunity for our students, faculty and staff to engage in meaningful work with the city, and to help make Greenville a leading innovation hub in the country.”
The Furman I&E launched in August 2018 with Anthony Herrera as executive director. It fosters innovation and an entrepreneurial mindset at Furman by offering programming for students, faculty and staff. It also plays a crucial role in the local innovation and entrepreneurship community as a convener and facilitator. Sharing space in the Next on Main facility, on the third floor of the Bank of America building overlooking ONE City Plaza, enhances that role.
“It’s much easier to have a seat at the table and to help bring organizations together around a table, when that table is literally steps away in a shared space,” Herrera said. “With a location downtown, together with NEXT and the city of Greenville and close to other organizations, Furman is in a prime position to help build the knowledge-based economy and make Greenville a national hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Furman’s participation might surprise some people, Davis told a group of reporters. The university doesn’t have an engineering or a business school. “But innovation is about curiosity, creativity and ideas,” she said. “That’s what Furman has been cultivating all along.”
Whether a student majors in business, English or philosophy, they can still be innovative and entrepreneurial, Herrera said. “Forty percent of high school students want to be entrepreneurs,” he said. I&E’s close relationships with organizations, including NEXT and the city, will give Furman students an advantage, regardless of their choice of majors.
Also at the event, the Greenville Chamber, the city of Greenville and Greenville County announced a significant financial investment and the launch of the search for the NEXT CEO.
“Greenville City Council has identified economic development as one of the city’s top priorities and has allocated significant resources to achieve its economic development goals,” said Greenville City Manager John McDonough. “In order to be positioned to innovate and successfully compete in a global economy, we must support talent and entrepreneurial development in a targeted and collaborative way.”
Millwood said NEXT will begin its campaign to increase its support of regional entrepreneurs, as well as the launch of the search for NEXT’s CEO.
“Looking to the future, we intend to 3X NEXT, meaning we aim to triple investments and the companies and entrepreneurs served. We look forward to expanded partnerships with the city of Greenville, Greenville County and Furman University,” Millwood said. “We are eager to maintain and grow our strategic partnerships with the Greenville Chamber and other Upstate economic development entities.”
“Today’s announcement demonstrates a strategic and coordinated prioritization of the transformative value of innovation and entrepreneurship in our region. We look forward to continuing to work with NEXT and these key community partners on this important work,” said Carlos Phillips, president and CEO of the Greenville Chamber.