In the conventional view, science and human experience have too often been seen as opposite ends of a spectrum. Even the educational system has traditionally grouped the sciences and the humanities into entirely separate curricula, as though one somehow had nothing to do with the other. It was never true, of course. Anyone whose life has been saved by antibiotics, anyone who remembers the night when the first visitors from Earth took their first steps on the moon, anyone who has stood in the restored Sistine Chapel and seen Michelangelo’s masterpiece in its original glowing colors, could tell you that, without science, humanity would likely have been a little less human.
Stated simply, the mission of the William R. Kenan, Jr. Institute for Engineering, Technology & Science is to focus the resources of engineering, technology, and science even more sharply on those kinds of human issues. And to bring the benefits even more rapidly to the people who populate the world outside the laboratories.
Traditional university research programs, by their very nature, tend to concentrate on the tenacious pursuit of solutions to long-term problems. The Kenan Institute both complements and supplements this classical approach. Its own resources are focused on the creation of dynamic partnerships between industry, government and universities partnerships whose combined resources can direct the fruits of university scholarship toward solutions to recognized problems existing here and now.
That word “partnerships” is actually the key. From its inception, the Kenan Institute has taken a leadership role in creating relationships, which can lead to results. By using the leverage of its core funding to help attract partners and create opportunities for further research, the Institute functions as a knowledge venturer in support of teams and partnerships that, in addition to generating new knowledge, are able to use that knowledge to generate capital, jobs and new technologies of immediate use to humankind.
With its gift from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Fund for Engineering, Technology, and Science, it would be logical to suppose that the Kenan Institute is in the business of making grants for worthy scientific and technological purposes. In fact, the Institute does not make grants. If anything, it seeks them, in order to make its own core funding go farther. Its resources are used to seek out scholars and scholarship that can make a difference, and to seek out partners who share its vision and who have the capacity to help transform the results of university scholarship into an improved quality of life.
Perhaps it can be put even more simply. The William R. Kenan, Jr. Fund for Engineering, Technology and Science provides the Kenan Institute not with a finite sum of money, but with a perpetual opportunity to serve. The Institute, in its turn, is charged with making its own ongoing investment in the future of humankind. And the returns of that investment, needless to say, will go far beyond the financial.