Alum donates $1 million to Marshall center

The Marshall Center for Global Innovation, part of the Marshall School of Business, recently received a $1 million donation that will effectively double the center’s budget.

The center, established four years ago, performs research on how innovation helps firms succeed in today’s global environment. Working with universities and research centers around the world, the center uses actual market data to examine the factors that make businesses successful.

Don Murray, who earned his master’s degree at the Leventhal School of Accounting, decided to give the center $1 million over the course of the next six to seven years to help spur further research.

James Ellis, dean of the Marshall School of Business, said the donation is essential in continuing the work of the Center for Global Innovation and its director, Gerard Tellis.

“The significance of such a donation is that it allows one of our major research professors the ability to continue his cutting-edge work without worrying about a funding source,” Ellis said. “This is a critical component of USC being a major research university and the Marshall School of Business being a contributor to that vision.”

Murray, along with his wife, Carol, has been a benefactor of the center since its inception. The Murrays’ previous gifts helped fund research on the evolution of technology and the factors that spread innovation across borders.

The two saw potential in Tellis’ work and made the donation to further his efforts.

“Professor Tellis’ research allows us to understand what makes an organization or culture innovative,” Murray said in a press release. “We look forward to this important work being replicated to drive all types of innovation, whether in science, industry, academia or government. I am enthused to see USC Marshall on the vanguard for innovation — to help create a global culture where innovation is fostered and supported.”

Ellis agreed Tellis’ work is among the most innovative at Marshall.

“Marketing Professor Gerard Tellis is one of the most productive professors at the Marshall School of Business,” Ellis said. “He has done exhaustive research on the innovativeness of companies and even countries, as well as the history of innovation … This will enable Professor Tellis to continue his research in that area.”

Tellis said the gift will allow him to keep more research assistants on staff and produce research more efficiently.

“This is a very generous gift — a big deal,” Tellis said. “It will primarily pay for labor, the salaries of employees — we have five student workers and a supervisor — research assistants, conferences and travel.”

From its beginnings, the center has developed tools that can aid companies in improving performance through innovation. Among these tools are the Innovation Payoff, which measures the stock market returns because of innovative activity, and the Technology Predictor, which forecasts when in the future certain platform technologies will become dominant.

In addition, the center annually publishes the Firm Index, the Country Index and the Research and Development Center Index. These indices rank, according the center’s criteria, the most innovative companies, the most innovative countries and the best places for research and development in the world.

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