UNC-Chapel Hill achieves unprecedented growth in impact from innovation and entrepreneurship

The number of innovations, entrepreneurs and ventures developed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – and the speed of their creation – is showing unprecedented growth, according to a new report by the Office of Vice Chancellor for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.

The Innovate Carolina Roadmap reports significant societal and economic benefits to the University, the state of North Carolina and the world thanks to a faster pipeline of ideas and the Innovate Carolina ecosystem, which provides a network for all schools and units to work together to advance important outcomes.

“Through focused work and pan-university dedication, Carolina is inspiring, developing and mentoring the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “I have witnessed students, faculty and staff working together like never before to create new jobs and fields that capture imaginations and help improve our state, nation and world. This perfectly aligns with our commitment to ensure our graduates are prepared to face a certain-uncertain future as part of the Innovation Generation.”

The report highlights Carolina’s results and next steps in implementing its innovation and entrepreneurship strategy, which includes applying research to real-world problems, preparing students with a translational mindset and skillset to enhance their career success and creating social and commercial startups.

Since the initiation of this strategy in 2010, the Innovate Carolina network has collaborated to:

  • Gain stronger outcomes from the commercialization of research-based intellectual property. In comparing the five-year roadmap period to the prior five years, disclosures of ideas by faculty are up 23 percent, patents issued are up 47 percent, the number of new IP-based startups more than doubled and revenue is up 73 percent.
  • Develop KickStart Venture Services, which has provided $1.8 million in awards to 56 intellectual property-based startups since 2009. These companies then raised $20 million in SBIR/STTR grants and $137 million in total funding.
  • Create the $10 million Carolina Research Ventures Fund in 2015. Managed by Hatteras Venture Partners, there have been three investments in startups that have raised more than $115 million in investment capital.
  • Open Launch Chapel Hill in 2013, an accelerator in downtown Chapel Hill. It has worked with 63 companies that have raised $15 million in investment capital and created more than 1,000 jobs, 250 of which are in Orange County, N.C. Three companies have had successful exits.
  • Launch the Carolina Angel Network, which in only six months has 90 members, triple the projected number.
  • Work across boundaries to jumpstart and strengthen convergent disciplines such as applied physical sciences and biomedical engineering. Makerspaces are now available across campus, with a new residence hall-based space opening this fall.

The Innovate Carolina Startups Database was created in 2014 to measure the impact of these social and commercial projects. This comprehensive, longitudinal database, which is also used for research purposes by Carolina faculty, houses detailed data on 418 companies started between 1958 and today. Data analysis since 2015 shows that the total revenue of the companies still in operation is in the billions, and the overwhelming majority of these businesses are headquartered in North Carolina. This includes Quintiles, which was started in 1982 by then UNC-Chapel Hill faculty member Dennis Gillings.

The roadmap report also details how UNC’s Board of Trustees, administration, deans, chairs, faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and the community have partnered to ensure the University is well positioned to help solve some of the biggest challenges facing the world today.

“The work of the roadmap became a journey of ideas. Engrained in our DNA is the belief we must remain relevant – not only in preparing our students with a translational mindset and skillset for the workforce, but also to serve our society with forward-thinking ideas,” says Judith Cone, Vice Chancellor for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. “Working through the roadmap sparked a sweeping re-invention of the University across many fronts, helping us better serve our fast-changing society.”

To accomplish the roadmap’s goals and strategies, Innovate Carolina will continue to systematically work to bring together key groups from across the University and community with different perspectives and experiences.

“Over the last five years, leaders have stepped forward from every part of the University, region and state to pilot and prove that this collaborative approach to innovation works,” says Cone. “Now, it’s time to build and expand on these successes.”

Read the full report and the executive summary on the UNC News website.