Editor’s note: Joe Magno is Executive Director, the North Carolina Center of Innovation Network, which is a partner with WRAL TechWire and a supporter of the First Flight Venture Center. WRAL TechWire published a two-part interview about First Flight:

First Flight is soaring

First Flight, a different kind of startup hub

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – When First Flight Venture Center’s 2016 Annual Report was released on March 8th it noted recent competitive Federal Funding Awards received by the Center’s LiftOff and Wings programs, and the recent Hangar 6 award which brought approximately $500,000 in funding to assist the Center in supporting the growth of North Carolina high technology focused companies.

Even more impressive and indicative of the positive impact of the Center’s support to North Carolina STEMpreneurs (entrepreneurs that focus on science, technology, engineering and math) was the reporting of over $20 million of investment funding received by First Flight companies in 2016.

Much of First Flight’s success can be attributed to the collaborative environment fostered by a caring and dedicated staff and the solid partnerships it has fostered to create a collaborative and supportive “neighborhood” for its clients.

This inclusive environment provides member companies with regular opportunities to network not only with other STEMpreneurs, but also to take advantage of informational and educational programs designed to support them as they grow. First Flight’s partnerships with others including Eva Garland Consulting, Alexandria Real Estate, The Center of Innovation Network (COIN), the North Carolina Biotech Center, and many others who come together to support these innovative young companies make this possible.

In his book “Where Good Ideas Come From,” Steven Johnson speaks about innovation from an environmental perspective.  In the book, he provides his perspective on innovation and the collaborative spaces and situations that have historically spawned innovative ideas and essentially changed the world throughout history.  He discusses the recurring patterns such as “adjacency” and “liquid networks” that feed creativity and innovation and have positively impacted the world in which we all live.  Upon reflection, the magic of First Flight is living proof of Johnson’s theories.

When First Flight was established in 1991 to serve the initial needs of entrepreneurs and early stage science companies its founders thoughtfully nestled it in the woods of the Research Triangle Park at 2 Davis Drive, central to the area’s prolific universities and research centers as well as the larger enterprises that populate the Park. Because of this foresight there’s no wonder it has become a literal melting pot for inventors and entrepreneurs growing out of the Region’s globally renowned universities and research centers, and has become a veritable “Entrepreneurial Switzerland”.

Most days, passers-by will find tenants and visitors “colliding” in the halls or conference rooms, sharing ideas or taking advantage of the many resources the staff has made available through their many partnerships. To the point, last week a Workshop convened by COIN and First Flight featured author and grant writing guru Eva Garland, and provided over 35 young companies and investors a “Pizza and Pop” workshop to learn about non-dilutive funding or how to best go after grants offered by the government or other sources of free research and commercialization funds.  Along with supportive programs such as these, every week community get togethers foster an atmosphere of cooperation and community that provides clients with a “neighborhood” environment conducive to innovation, and providing a nurturing atmosphere to help dedicated STEMpreneurs in growing companies.

Andy Schwab and his staff, the First Flight Board of Directors, Clients, and all those who are part of the First Flight Community should be congratulated for their achievements and most of all providing a great launching pad for STEMpreneurs looking to take off on their first flight.