UNC Charlotte will play a leading role as one of four regional hubs for NCInnovation, a nonprofit organization designed to accelerate research, innovation and commercialization statewide. NCI will receive a $500 million endowment through the General Assembly’s allocation of $250 million in each year of the current biennium.
UNC Charlotte, along with East Carolina University, North Carolina A&T State University and Western Carolina University, are anchor institutions for NCI’s regional work, connecting to other state universities and higher education institutions.
"UNC Charlotte is pleased to be one of four NCInnovation anchor institutions. This initiative — now strengthened with funding from the General Assembly — aligns well with Charlotte's vision to become a top-tier research university supporting our region and state,” said UNC Charlotte Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber. “As Charlotte's public research university, we are providing the talent and innovation needed for economic growth and a strong quality of life. Over the past decade, research expenditures at the University have increased 123%. UNC Charlotte is first in the Carolinas and fourth in the nation for commercializing research on a per-dollar basis. This innovative hub will strengthen our capacity to help Charlotte and all of North Carolina to flourish and thrive.”
A recognized national leader in research and development funding and a top destination for talent, North Carolina, despite its world-class university system, ranks 20th in the nation in terms of commercializing ideas and discoveries as marketable products or services. NCI’s mission is to advance a path to commercialization through expedited technology transfer and increased patent and venture capital activity across the state.
Support from NCI will make possible prioritizing resources and mentors for researchers and entrepreneurs, particularly in areas away from the state’s major cities, while addressing overall funding insufficiencies for commercialization efforts and a need to strengthen collaboration among academic, industrial and capital networks.
“The efficient transfer of new technology to commercialization is essential to a healthy innovation ecosystem,” said John Daniels, interim vice chancellor for research. “New technologies developed by UNC Charlotte researchers — in biotechnology, cybersecurity, electric battery safety, renewable energy and much more — have tremendous potential to spur startup activity and create jobs for the region. A commitment to sustaining an environment that fuels innovation will be key to retaining ventures as they grow and attracting new ones to the area. We are looking forward to partnering with NCI to translate UNC Charlotte’s pioneering research into jobs, powering the future for our region and state.”
Regional Directors Named
NCI operations at each of the anchor institutions will be led by a regional innovation director.
Mary Lou Bourne will serve as Charlotte regional innovation director, NCI announced. Bourne, who previously held senior leadership roles at James Madison University, will be based at UNC Charlotte and work closely with University leadership to help translate research into economic output.
Support will be offered through grants to North Carolina university researchers, helping them advance their research, start companies, attract investors and create jobs. NCI also will offer wrap-around support services. According to NCI, grants are expected to begin in 2024.