Skip to main content

Research is a major driver of innovation and economic growth across North Carolina. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill annually attracts more than $1.1 billion to the state’s economy to fund research that creates a better quality of life for all its citizens. Examples of this type of research, which also has commercial potential, include creating treatments and solutions to societal issues, like cancer, traumatic brain injury, and opioid misuse; ensuring our state’s resiliency to challenges posed by changing environments; and developing solutions and improvements for education and transportation. And we can do more.

Headquartered on our campus, the NC Collaboratory, which was established by the North Carolina General Assembly, plays an important role in ensuring that our research makes an impact on the state. And more recently, the state made a major investment to establish innovation hubs and fund projects throughout the UNC System through NCInnovation. The role of universities in accelerating our state’s commercial growth has never been more clear or more pressing. And it is our responsibility to ensure that our work has public benefit.

Carolina researchers need a clear path to take their work beyond our campus boundaries and into tangible, marketable solutions for communities, the state, the nation, and the world. By creating a culture and ecosystem of innovation aligned with our research mission we can advance discovery, creativity, knowledge, and creation of products for the public good.


We have enormous human capital that is primed to be unlocked. The knowledge and practices of our faculty and students are the fuel for innovation. It will be an important first step to leverage this talent to generate truly transformative science that can solve the pressing problems of today and tomorrow. This will require broadening our definitions of “innovator” and “entrepreneur” and challenging more scientists and scholars to push their work to the broadest potential for impact. Our researchers will need to articulate the translation of their work while we, as research administrators, provide the resources necessary to be successful.

By building a culture of innovation and enabling a talented workforce that is well-versed in thinking about the impact of science and scholarship, we have the potential to grow North Carolina’s already impressive life sciences industries and expand our state’s commercial viability to industries like energy, digital technology, generative AI, life sciences manufacturing, AgTech, defense innovation, electronics, and more.


To truly succeed, we must create synergies and integration of research and innovation. We need to break down the typical siloed approach of separating departments and centers of innovation from the research mission of the University. With research as the fuel, and with alignment and integration with centers of innovation, we can provide the spark and the resources to transform science into many beneficial outputs and impacts, catapulting research conducted on our campuses out into the public domain.

We are in an outstanding position to create these synergies now. I am eager to partner with Dedric Carter, our new vice chancellor for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development and chief innovation officer, who brings substantial expertise and new ideas.


We also need to make meaningful changes to our campus systems and structures, transforming them to be nimbler. This means removing roadblocks and fostering environments that facilitate pathways to commercialization. By building and improving state-of-the-art research and innovation assets, we will enable success.

We recently opened the Innovate Carolina Junction, a hub of innovation in downtown Chapel Hill that brings our network of innovators and entrepreneurs together in co-working, meeting, lab, and accelerator spaces. We are also moving forward on the development of the new Translational Research Building that will house the technology and translational programming needed to increase Carolina’s market share and compete with top biomedical and research institutions across the country.

We also continue to work hard to identify and invest in strategic potential commercial opportunities across campus through research translation programs like Creativity Hubs and Technology Development Grants, and organizations like the Institute of Convergent Science.


Across our campus, we continue to leverage our low stone walls to stimulate more team science across the full translational spectrum — from discovery at the bench or in the field, to models, to clinics, to communities, and across populations — to solve the world’s greatest challenges. These challenges require integrative approaches that cross disciplinary boundaries to create ideas and technologies. Strategic partnerships that engage applied scientists and engineers with fundamental, basic, with discovery scientists and scholars are particularly important in moving research and knowledge off our campus and into the world.

Successful innovation also requires collaborations outside of our campus with industry partners, organizations, and communities. Working with external collaborators creates new potential and new energy to create solutions and applications. Organizations like NCBiotech, which provides funding for life science research, technology commercialization, and entrepreneurship, play a particularly critical role by helping to bring ideas from our campuses to market.

We are at an unprecedented moment in time when technological and scientific advances create new areas of scientific inquiry while major expansion of regional industries directly draws on our research strengths, talents, and workforce. To capitalize, we must enable and foster a culture of innovations on our campus; continue fostering collaborations across departments, institutions, industries, and communities; work with state legislators to attract new industries to North Carolina; and continue to minimize the innovation gap between research and its products. In doing so, we can ensure our leadership in the next phase of our state’s economic growth.

Comments are closed.