Editor’s note: ‘Charlotte Beat’ is a regular feature on Wednesdays. After 18 months of planning, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) says the Institute for eBusiness Technology has become a reality.

Making the deal real is the commitment of $1 million each from Wachovia Corp. and Bank of America Corp. Both banks are headquartered in Charlotte.

Although the financial commitment was called a “contribution” in the official announcement, that’s a bit of a misnomer, says Dr. Mirsad Hadzikadic, dean of the College of Information Technology, of which the new institute is a part.

“It’s a contribution in that the two banks have committed that amount of money, but they will get direct value for it,” he explains. “By funding this project for themselves, they are making an investment in their own future and that of the university.”

The money will be used to help fund a study of business systems, with an emphasis on data security, privacy and cryptography, and to make electronic business more efficient, consumer-friendly, innovative and secure. The ultimate goal is to create software to analyze data on patterns of behavior, including a study of such activities as check counterfeiting and security breaches.

Student involvement a key

According to Dr. Hadzikadic, the institute gives UNCC an opportunity to share its expertise in security and other related areas to companies in the region. It also gives the university the ability to offer its graduate and undergraduate students the chance to work on real life problems with professionals from the working world. “It makes our students better prepared to work on real life issues,” he says. “Call it just-in-time education.”

UNCC officials decided early on to focus the institute’s activities on the financial services industry. “That doesn’t mean we’re limiting ourselves to banks,” Dr. Hadzikadic says. “We want this initial relationship to be a template for the future. It’s a win-win situation we hope will be such a powerful example that other companies will feel compelled to work with us.”

The buy-in for the new concept came from the top, with UNCC Chancellor Jim Woodward joining Dr. Hadzikadic and other UNCC officials in making a single presentation to the two bank CEOs, Ken Lewis of Bank of America and Ken Thompson of Wachovia.

Olin Broadway — a familiar name in financial services software in Charlotte — will initially lead the institute. He says work will begin in about four to six weeks, and that ownership of any intellectual property will be shared by the sponsoring banks and UNCC. In 1981, he co-founded Broadway &Seymour, one the first companies to offer software exclusively for financial institutions. He left the firm in 1990, led several technology-oriented start-up firms, and joined UNCC as an executive in residence in 2000.