Few places in Silicon Valley are as legendary as the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, where fundamental computing inventions from the mouse to the personal computer were first conceived.

That’s why it marks a new era whenever PARC gets a new chief. Today, Xerox is announcing that Steve Hoover will become the new CEO of Xerox PARC, replacing retiring chief Mark Bernstein. Under Bernstein, PARC endeavored to make its inventions into commercial successes. It became an independent subsidiary in 2002 and has actively licensed its technologies to outside companies.

The job carries a lot of responsibility, since PARC is one of America’s biggest national treasures. Hoover was most recently vice president of software and electronics development at Xerox, which he joined in 1994. He supervised the investment of $175 million in R&D spending and has risen through the ranks of R&D. He has a doctorate from Carnegie Mellon University.

“Steve is not only a respected researcher but also an effective leader,” said Sophie Vandebroek, Xerox chief technology officer and president of the Xerox Innovation Group. She said he shares a passion for exploring the unknown and a curiosity that results in breakthrough innovations. She also touted his skills as a business leader.

PARC needs both R&D vision and business acumen these days as it has to earn its keep. Paid research and royalties from its inventions are what guarantee the future of research at PARC. For more than four decades, the R&D team at Xerox has been famous for its great ideas, but it also fumbled the future when it allowed a young Steve Jobs to visit and commercialize some of its best ideas for the personal computer. Jobs founded Apple and turned it into one of the pioneering companies of the age, while Xerox never launched its Alto personal computer.

These days, Xerox regularly holds innovation days where the goal is to commercialize its inventions. Hoover assumes the PARC leadership role on February 1.

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