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Celebrating Innovation at Penn: Pennovation Talks, The David & Lyn Silfen Forum

Photo: Freda Zhao / The Daily Pennsylvanian

At Penn, innovation is welcomed with fireworks, confetti and flying drones.

On Friday, Board of Trustees Chair David Cohen and President Amy Gutmann hosted Celebrating Innovation at Penn, an event that included presentations by Penn researchers, a forum featuring author Walter Isaacson and a networking reception. The afternoon’s activities attracted many alumni who were visiting campus for Homecoming weekend, along with Penn faculty and students.

One highlight of the day was the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Pennovation Center — a 52,000-square-foot facility on the university’s South Bank campus designed to promote innovation at Penn with various new spaces dedicated to research and collaboration. The building will open in several phases, beginning next year.

The Pennovation Center is a component of the PennConnects overall development strategy, a multiyear plan which aims to provide Penn with a more modern and sustainable campus.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Gutmann discussed the ultimate goal of new discoveries, which she stated as “innovation for the sake of impact.” Her speech emphasized a driving message that dates back to Ben Franklin: ideas born through Penn research should be applied to the wider community in order to make the world a better place. According to Gutmann, “innovation and engagement are part of Penn’s DNA.”

Following speeches and a video, Gutmann and Cohen demonstrated their enthusiasm for new technology by releasing several flying drones into the crowd as Penn’s fight song played in the background.

1977 College graduate Bob Barsotti described the event as “fantastic.” Following his time at Penn, Barsotti worked in scientific research for over thirty years, and returned to Penn this weekend to witness future developments in that area. He remarked positively about the Pennovation Center, in particular, its focus on the transition from “concept to translation to commercialization.”

College junior Miranda Wang, College freshman David Ongchoco, and Engineering freshman Rajat Bhageria expressed similar excitement about the Pennovation Center. They believe that collaboration between traditionally separate fields is an important part of innovation, and that the new Center will help to facilitate such an exchange of ideas. “It’s an exciting time to be at Penn,” Ongchoco and Bhageria said.

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