UNC Charlotte’s business and innovation partners returned to the University Wednesday, Dec. 7, after a three-year, pandemic-related hiatus for the Research and Business Partners Celebration hosted by the Division of Research.
The evening’s program, “Research Shapes What’s Next,” highlighted the year’s research successes and showcased UNC Charlotte’s faculty, alumni and students who are immersed in research for current or eventual entrepreneurial ventures. The PORTAL (Partnership, Outreach and Research to Accelerate Learning) Building, the University’s innovation center located in the heart of UNC Charlotte’s research campus, provided a backdrop that highlighted the value of the collaborative innovation that occurs through the convergence of University and corporate expertise and resources.
“To learn about technology from 10 years ago, consult a textbook,” said John Daniels, interim vice chancellor for the Division of Research, in his welcoming remarks. “Three years ago? Read a journal article. Last year? Go to a conference. But if you want to know what’s next in the future, you’ve come to the right place.”
In 2021-22, UNC Charlotte researchers attracted nearly $58 million in new research awards, a 13% increase in just five years. Already for 2022-23, the University is ahead 7% for the same point in time last year. Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber outlined the University’s recent reorganization of the Division of Research to better align with Charlotte’s strategic plan and vision as a globally recognized top-tier research university.
“University research is enriched in its quality and value when there is meaningful collaboration with our industry and government partners,” Gaber said. “It allows us to more efficiently and effectively allocate University expertise and resources fully dedicated to the growth and advancement of research in all University disciplines.”
Keynote speaker, Ryan Kennedy ‘04, co-founder and CEO of Atom Power Inc., was introduced by Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Deborah Thomas. Atom Power, producer of its trademark PURPL electric-vehicle charging system based in Huntersville, North Carolina, originally was headquartered at the PORTAL Building. The company, whose solid-state digital circuit breaker is helping to accelerate the broad adoption of electric vehicles, is poised for a major expansion through a $100 million investment from SK Group, one of South Korea’s largest conglomerates.
“As UNC Charlotte considers a transition to top-tier status, it will be important to view research in terms of its potential to change the world – and how to move forward with available resources,” Kennedy said. “Partnering with industries with a similar visionary view will make possible achieving the highest level of anything imaginable.”
An evening high point was the presentation of graduate-level research by several master’s and doctoral students, and the opportunity for guests to meet with them one-to-one. They were: Tyler Adams, Ph.D. student, chemistry; Shanika Jerger Butts, Ph.D. student, public health sciences; Jessica Hoyle, Ph.D. candidate, public health sciences; Corinne Kingsbery, Ph.D. candidate, special education and child development; Kaitlin Klotz, Ph.D. student, biological sciences; Subham Sah, dual master’s degree student in architecture and IT; and Tong Wu, Ph.D., candidate, educational research, measurement and evaluation.