Skip to content

University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

New report shows unprecedented growth in innovation impact

Makerspaces are now available across campus, like the one at Murray Hall shown here.

The number of innovations, entrepreneurs and ventures developed by Carolina – and the speed of their creation – is showing unprecedented growth, according to a new report by the Office of Vice Chancellor for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.

The Innovate Carolina Roadmap reports significant societal and economic benefits to the University, the state of North Carolina and the world thanks to a faster pipeline of ideas and the Innovate Carolina ecosystem, which provides a network for all schools and units to work together to advance important outcomes.

“Through focused work and pan-University dedication, Carolina is inspiring, developing and mentoring the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “I have witnessed students, faculty and staff working together like never before to create new jobs and fields that capture imaginations and help improve our state, nation and world. This perfectly aligns with our commitment to ensure our graduates are prepared to face a certain-uncertain future as part of the Innovation Generation.”

The report highlights Carolina’s results and next steps in implementing its innovation and entrepreneurship strategy, which includes applying research to real-world problems, preparing students with a translational mindset and skillset to enhance their career success and creating social and commercial startups.

Since the initiation of this strategy in 2010, the Innovate Carolina network has collaborated to:

Students, faculty and staff members celebrated the opening of the Murray Hall Be A Maker (BeAM) space in December.

The Innovate Carolina Startups Database was created in 2014 to measure the impact of these social and commercial projects. This comprehensive, longitudinal database, which is also used for research purposes by Carolina faculty, houses detailed data on 418 companies started between 1958 and today.

Data analysis since 2015 shows that the total revenue of the companies still in operation is in the billions, and the overwhelming majority of these businesses are headquartered in North Carolina. This includes Quintiles, which was started in 1982 by then-faculty member Dennis Gillings.

The roadmap report also details how UNC’s Board of Trustees, administration, deans, chairs, faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and the community have partnered to ensure the University is well positioned to help solve some of the biggest challenges facing the world today.

Judith Cone

“The work of the roadmap became a journey of ideas. Engrained in our DNA is the belief we must remain relevant – not only in preparing our students with a translational mindset and skillset for the workforce, but also to serve our society with forward-thinking ideas,” said Judith Cone, vice chancellor for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development. “Working through the roadmap sparked a sweeping re-invention of the University across many fronts, helping us better serve our fast-changing society.”

To accomplish the roadmap’s goals and strategies, Innovate Carolina will continue to systematically work to bring together key groups from across the University and community with different perspectives and experiences.

“Over the last five years, leaders have stepped forward from every part of the University, region and state to pilot and prove that this collaborative approach to innovation works,” Cone said. “Now, it’s time to build and expand on these successes.”

View the full report.