Univ. of Utah gets $13 mln for impact investing center

NEW YORK Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:01am EST

NEW YORK Jan 29 (Reuters) - University of Utah's school of business has received $13 million from technology entrepreneur James Lee Sorenson to establish a center to advance investment to organizations that demonstrate a benefit to society, the university announced on Tuesday.

The new James Lee Sorenson Center for Global Impact Investing will focus on the very early stages of investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention of generating measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.

Universities such as Michigan, Duke, Oxford, and New York, among others, have centers whose main focus is on social entrepreneurship, while the University of Utah's primary focus is on impact investing, said Lewis Hower, managing director of the Center.

A social entrepreneur is willing to look beyond conventional wisdom and experiment with market-based approaches - such as loans, not charity - to serve the social need, according to a definition by the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

The Center will address social issues such as healthcare, education, housing, sustainable and green energy, agriculture and entrepreneurial livelihood training and development.

"The students will be focusing on finding the most promising entrepreneurs and helping them develop their business plan," said Sorenson, founder of Sorenson Communications, Utah's largest tech company and one of the nation's largest video relay service providers.

The Center will focus on research that fosters understanding of how free enterprise can be employed to create large-scale societal change; and curriculum development, including a proposed minor in Impact Investing to teach and train students.

"Instead of taking an exam and hoping that you do well on it, teams of students will be presenting investment opportunities to Jim and his foundation. There is no more real situation than that," said Taylor Randall, dean of the Eccles School of Business at University of Utah.

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