Wednesday, April 17, 2024

NCInnovation hires staff after getting $500 million in state budget

NCInnovation, backed by $500 million in the new state budget, has hired four regional directors to lead its operations across the state.

One director will be based at each of four “anchor” universities – UNC Charlotte, Western Carolina University, East Carolina University and N.C. A&T State University – and will manage NCInnovation activities at other universities in each region as well.

The goal of NCInnovation is to support North Carolina universities that are not Tier I research universities – Duke, UNC Chapel Hill and N.C. State – to help them commercialize their work and turn concepts into companies that create jobs in North Carolina.

“This marks the next step in implementing NCInnovation’s model to commercialize university research,” says NCInnovation CEO Bennet Waters in a release. “The UNC System is second-to-none, and our job is to help translate university research into economic output.”

The directors will report to Michelle Bolas, who previously led UNC Chapel Hill’s research commercialization work. She now serves in the newly created role of executive vice president and chief innovation officer at NCInnovation.

The regional directors will aim to implement tenets of NCInnovation’s research commercialization model by:

  • Connecting industry, capital, and academia to inform university research portfolios and identify commercialization opportunities;
  • Monitoring and understanding university research activities to orient NCInnovation’s grant making opportunities; and
  • Collaborating with university leaders to help translate research into economic output.

Here are the four directors:

Mary Lou Bourne, anchored by UNC Charlotte. Bourne has master’s degrees in higher education administration and in integrated science and technology. For the past 18 years she held senior leadership roles at James Madison University, first as director of technology transfer and then as director of technology innovation and economic development.

Louis Judge, anchored by N.C. A&T State University. Judge holds an MBA from Winston-Salem State University and most recently led the division of corporate education and economic development as associate vice president at Alamance Community College. Before that, Judge spent 13 years as senior licensing associate and director of outreach and technology transfer at N.C. A&T State University.

Meagan Coneybeer, anchored by Western Carolina University. Coneybeer holds a master’s degree in horticulture science from N.C. State University. She most recently served as director of mentorship and research for the N.C. School of Science and Math’s western campus. Before that, she worked in the biosciences industry and academia.

Derrick Welch, anchored by East Carolina University. Welch has a master’s degree in public administration, and previously served as chief of staff at the New Mexico Department of Education, program director at an award-winning economic development and startup accelerator at ECU, and staff director at the North Carolina Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations.

A key driver of NCInnovation is retired Truist CEO Kelly King, who helped transform BB&T into a top-10 U.S. bank. He also gathered backing from many key N.C. business leaders. NCInnovation was required to raise $25 million in private funding to get the money from the state.

NCInnovation contends North Carolina’s public universities, aside from UNC Chapel Hill and N.C. State University, are largely ineffective in turning their researchers’ ideas into commercial successes. The organization points out that nearly 94% of academic research funding in the state runs through those two campuses, plus Duke and Wake Forest universities, and the other 14 UNC system schools lag far behind.

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