RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Entrepreneurs and believers in innovation as a key to growth for North Carolina’s economy, will gain new voices of support through two new organizations.
Thirty-seven of the state’s highest profile executives and investors are part of the new group.
Max Wallace, a serial entrepreneur and former CEO of Cogent Neuroscience, will lead the North Carolina Innovation Foundation as president and chairman. Wallace works with The Arbor Group, a consulting firm in Cary. The Foundation is to assist in research and education related to entrepreneurship and innovation.
“North Carolina’s future ability to create jobs and spur economic growth will depend in large measure on whether we as a state foster innovation and entrepreneurship,” Wallace said in a statement. “This foundation will help make sure that our state and its leaders have access to … and a good understanding of … the very best ideas for growing the economy through innovation and entrepreneurial activity.”
The other organization is the North Carolina Entrepreneurial Association (NCEA). Plans call for it to be a statewide non-partisan trade association and lobbyist.
“If the Council for Entrepreneurial Development did government affairs, this would be it,” Jeff Clark of The Auroura Funds told Local Tech Wire.
Both groups are part of the North Carolina Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. It consists of business leaders, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and other support organizations focused on an “innovation economy”. The NCIIE has been meeting informally for several months.
Co-chairs of the parent group are venture capitalists Clark and Steve Nelson of the Wakefield Group.
The Council for Entrepreneurial Development has been part of the talks, and Monica Doss, president of the CED, expressed support for the group in the statement.
“Lots of groups were at the table,” LTW was told by someone familiar with the discussions. Part of the talks was to avoid creating competition between the new organizations and others such as the CED.
“We are trying to do what is complimentary” to other groups, Clark told LTW. He said the NCEA founds were in constant contact with the CED, the North Carolina Electronic and Information Technologies Association, MCNC and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.
Clark is the current chairman of the CED board, and Nelson has been an active leader in CED. Wallace is a former president of the CED.
Clark said the NCEA would be an active lobbyist at the North Carolina General Assembly, and it has created a political action committee — NCEntrePAC. The PAC will support “candidates that lead the way in energizing the state’s innovation economy,” according to the statement announcing the new groups.
Part of the NCEA is “to make sure that North Carolina’s public leaders understand the tremendous economic energy that comes out of innovation and the commercialization of new technologies,” he explained. “Our state is at a crossroads. Much of our future growth … and many of the new jobs of our state’s future … can come from these companies. But we won’t truly realize that potential unless we take action now to optimize North Carolina’s entrepreneurial business climate.”
Also working with the group is Sam Taylor who is part of the NCBIO organization that lobbies the General Assembly on matters related to the state’s biotechnology industry. Wallace was a co-founder and served as president of that group, formally known as the North Carolina Bioscience Organization.
Leaders of the group said concern about job losses in the state is a major reason for the new efforts.
“We feel that there is great potential for North Carolina to be one of the best places in the world to develop and commercialize new technologies,” Nelson said. “But we also think that there are some very important things that have to happen in order to fulfill that potential.
“The North Carolina Innovation Foundation is designed to help North Carolina figure out the best way of realizing our innovation future. NCEA will be a platform for people interested in that future to help make it happen.”
The Foundation is looking to raise funds from entrepreneurs, companies that support entrepreneurship, and venture capitalists.