RALEIGH – A recently formed non-profit organization, NCInnovation, could soon receive $1.425 billion in funding from the state of North Carolina if a budget announced  by the N.C. Senate on Tuesday wins passage. If ultimately approved it could rank as the largest economic investment in state history. And the amount might have been larger.

Brent Jackson, R-Sampson told WRAL News: “Initially they wanted 2.5 billion over 10 years. But we had a lot of one-time money on hand so decided: We have the money let’s go ahead and create and build an endowment, the interest will create the rest of the money they need.”

Its mission is to improve the transition of academic research at the UNC System to the private sector, taking a three pronged approach:

  • Develop regional innovation networks to connect industry, academia, and entrepreneurs;
  • Leverage applied research to target market-based opportunities;
  • Support research commercialization to accelerate innovation growth and scale.

Investments would focus “particularly in regions outside the state’s urban centers,” the group said in a statement about the Senate allocation.

NCInnovation graphic


NCInnovation contends that the state’s tech-transfer efforts are falling behind and need a refresh. “RTP isn’t the end,” its pitch book says, referring to the world-famous business park in Durham and Wake counties. “It’s just the beginning.” BusinessNC magazine first reported on the effort in March, citing $50 million as a possible initial allocation.

It has raised more than $20 million from other sources.

Investments would focus “particularly in regions outside the state’s urban centers,” the group said in a statement about the Senate allocation.

NCInnovation is led by board chair Kelly King, former CEO at Truist Financial. Michelle Bolas, former Chief Innovation Officer at UNC-Chapel Hill, leads the group’s university collaborations.

“I’m grateful to North Carolina’s legislators for their many months of work. NCInnovation’s model will be a gamechanger for North Carolina, especially our rural areas that have the human talent but need support to press forward on commercializing research outputs,” King said in a statement.

Added NCInnovation CEO Bennet Waters: “North Carolina is a national leader in research and development funding, but data shows we lag competing states in commercializing that research and turning it into jobs. NCInnovation was created by some of the state’s top business minds to enable a public-private partnership to invest in commercializing our outstanding university research. Our objective is simple: provide local support for talent and research to create jobs and economic opportunities for all North Carolinians.”

Board members include UNC System President Peter Hans, N.C. A&T Chancellor Dr. Harold Martin, Western Carolina University Chancellor Dr. Kelli Brown, ECU Chancellor Dr. Philip Rogers, and UNC Charlotte Chancellor Dr. Sharon Gaber, among others.

$50 million to fund innovation across North Carolina draws support from lawmakers, governor