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Leading innovative thinkers and entrepreneurs who make up President Barack Obama’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship will hold the group’s first public forum at UNC-Chapel Hill on March 15.

The 24-member council, which includes Chancellor Holden Thorp, was created last year to support President Obama’s innovation strategy by helping to develop policies that foster entrepreneurship and identifying new ways to take great ideas from the lab to the marketplace to drive economic growth and create jobs. The council, which began meeting last September, serves as a vehicle for ongoing dialogue with the entrepreneurship community and other stakeholders.

“It’s a great honor for Carolina to be asked to host the council’s first public forum and regional meeting outside Washington,” said Thorp. “This is an excellent opportunity for people who are interested in innovation and entrepreneurship to observe and participate in discussions that will help shape our council’s recommendations on national policy.”

Council members come from business, higher education, philanthropy, technology and venture capital. Confirmed attendees to date for the UNC-Chapel Hill forum include:

• Steve Case, co-founder of America Online and founder of the Case Foundation;
• Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, chairman of Sparta Group LLC and founder of the Deshpande Foundation and the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology;
• Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan and a UNC-Chapel Hill alumna and vice chancellor for research;
• Ping Fu, co-founder, chairman, president and CEO, Geomagic, in Research Triangle Park.
• Carl Schramm, CEO, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

The public portion of the meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in the Koury Auditorium of the Kenan-Flagler Business School. Thorp will open the session, and the council will hear briefings by outside experts, discuss updates from subcommittees and participate in a question-and-answer session with the audience. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who recently was nominated to become the next U.S. ambassador to China, will make remarks. Previous council topics have included how innovations born out of research at federal labs and universities contribute to regional economic development and the importance of tax and regulatory policies that make start-up and growth capital more accessible to entrepreneurs.

The event is free, but attendees are required to present tickets. All tickets have been distributed. Interested people may listen to the meeting by phone by calling 888-942-9574; the access code is 6315042.

Public parking will be available in the Rams Head deck on Ridge Road for an hourly fee of $1.25. A free shuttle bus will take attendees from the Rams Head bus area to the McColl Building from 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. and back to the parking deck as needed. Attendees are also encouraged to use public transit.