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May 22, 2023 | Tom Ballard

NCInnovation has big plans if potential funding emerges

NCInnovation's plan would create regional economic networks at four state universities.

Talk about big thinking!

WRAL TechWire reports that a business-led nonprofit has a plan to help North Carolina’s universities better turn their research into creating jobs, and the North Carolina Senate has proposed giving the group a $1.4 billion endowment to get it done.

“This is the type of opportunity that can transform the lives of generations of North Carolina residents by creating opportunities for them in their own communities,” says Bennet Waters, Chief Executive Officer of NCInnovation, the nonprofit that would receive the money if the Senate plan passes.

“The Senate plan is a lot of money,” writes Kevin Ellis of Business North Carolina in the article. “Although not an apple-to-apple comparison, the $1.4 billion proposal is just $82 million less than the Senate proposes spending on North Carolina’s 58-campus community college system in the coming year.”

The Senate plan would create an endowment, which a third party would then invest, and then NCInnovation would use the proceeds from that investment to fund its efforts. A modest 5 percent return on a $1.425 billion investment would give NCInnovation $71 million a year at its disposal without touching the principal.

According to the article, NCInnovation has identified four challenges the state’s universities need to overcome:

  • Eighty-seven percent of R&D money goes to three universities – Duke, University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State, leaving just 13 percent for the state’s other universities;
  • Few partnerships exist across Tar Heel State universities to solve marketplace problems;
  • Venture capital spending is insufficient to fund university innovation; and
  • Little regional collaboration exists between academic, industrial and capital formation networks.

NCInnovation’s plan would create regional economic networks at four universities – Western Carolina University, East Carolina University, North Carolina A&T, and UNC Charlotte.

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