Research, Innovation and Economic Development
Please note that activities illustrating goals of the NC State Strategic Plan are denoted with parenthetical references as follows:
(1) Student Success;
(2) Faculty and Infrastructure;
(3) Interdisciplinary Scholarship;
(4) Organizational Excellence; and
(5) Strategic Partnerships.
The Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) supported and facilitated the creation of ten new startups (i.e., GridBridge, VaporPulse, Oryx Bio, DiscoverLit, Huffines Design, Spitter Spatter, Leiva Strings, KnowIt, Wright Foods, and SPARKmoto) during FY2012. This is nearly double NC State’s five-year average (4), and brings NC State’s total to more than ninety startups. NC State was issued more than ninety new patents (US and foreign) during FY2012 – a new annual record – and brings NC State’s total to more than 760 US patents. OTT established more than fifty new industry partnerships through licensing of NC State intellectual property (IP). More than 700 contracts associated with the transfer of IP (license agreements, confidentiality agreements, material transfer agreements, etc.) have been negotiated to date (5). More than 230 products have been commercialized based on NC State inventions, and OTT’s startup survey indicates that our startups have created more than 3,100 jobs in North Carolina (> 6,500 total) and raised $1.46B in investments. The majority of NC State’s active startups are headquartered in North Carolina, contributing to the economic development of our state. Our partnership with the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network (BEN) expanded during FY2012 (5), as OTT hosted representatives from BEN on campus to review emerging commercial opportunities. BEN and New Venture Services co-hosted the NC State Fast 15 Showcase on June 14, 2012.
OTT expanded outreach activities designed to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. In collaboration with the Small Business Technology Development Center (SBTDC), quarterly SBIR/STTR training sessions are provided to interested innovators and entrepreneurs on campus. OTT and SBTDC also co-hosted an Entrepreneurship Workshop on November 7, 2011.
Following the addition of economic development to its mission, ORIED successfully integrated the Economic Development Partnership, Centennial Campus Partnership, and Concierge Office into an outward facing unit, Partnerships and Economic Development, directed by Dennis Kekas and specializing in building relationships (4). This office coordinated President Obama’s Job Summit on Centennial Campus and the Ginni Rometty (IBM) visit to NC State (5). ORIED is developing a Vision Plan for Centennial Campus 2034. The initial stakeholder group includes Centennial Campus partners, alumni, faculty, administration, and a representative of RTP/TUCASI and Centennial Campus’ origin. The visioning process will continue over the next six months with a much broader stakeholder group to promote maximum engagement.
The Centennial Mesh project – a highly programmable, extensible, open testbed to support research and education on the design of wireless mesh networks – was implemented on Centennial Campus (1,2). CentMesh will enable IT systems and applications using open source code built by NC State students and faculty, and re-use of other open source code.
NC Institute for Climate Studies (NCICS) scope increased during FY2012 with the addition of new subcontracts from ECU, IGES, and ORAU, and the budget increased 43% from $3.48M to $4.99M. NCICS also met a National Climate Assessment Milestone for technical input. Major NCICS infrastructure upgrades and installations included: wireless infrastructure for the Asheville location; WAN connectivity to 10G; and hierarchical storage management for storage area network operations (2).
Federal Research Affairs (FRA) worked with UNC-GA Federal Relations to establish the UNC-GA Federal Relations 2012 framework and on multi-campus initiatives like the Defense Partnership Initiative, advocacy on behalf of student financial aid, reauthorization of the Higher Education bill, and to further engage the UNC Federal Affairs team (5). FRA assisted in securing $5 million in FY 2012 for NC B Prepared (2), and an additional $5 million is in the House DHS Appropriations bill for FY 2013. FRA effort is substantial and evolving on this effort.
President Obama visited campus on September 13, 2011, which was the first sitting President of the United States to visit NC State since 1983. FRA coordinated all aspects – from the first advance team visit to post-event follow up – and ticket distribution for over 9000 attendees. FRA also hosted Sen. Burr, Rep. Ellmers, Rep. Miller, and Rep. Price. FRA coordinated: Chancellor Woodson’s visits to DC to meet with delegation members and DC based higher education organizations; VC Lomax’ visit to discuss DOD initiatives; and twenty separate Dean and faculty visits to DC offices (5).
North Carolina Sea Grant (NCSG) received a successful rating from its annual federal review in February 2012. Although NCSG’s federal funding ranks approximately 14th among 32 Sea Grant programs nationally, based on 2010 measures NCSG ranked: 1st in number of new and continuing Master’s students supported (1); 2nd overall for communications products; 5th in number of peer reviewed journal articles published; and 6th in leveraged funding influenced by the program. The federal review also recognized that NCSG stimulated approximately $3M in economic benefits, prompted the creation or retention of 143 businesses, and helped to create or retain 89 jobs in NC. Moreover, 34 NC communities were determined to have adopted or implemented natural coastal hazard resiliency or preparedness practices because of NCSG research/educational programs, while another six communities restored degraded ecosystems with NCSG assistance. Finally, NCSG reached almost 11,000 K-12 students via its programs and activities.
The Materials Research Shared Research Facilities Task Force delivered its report to VC Lomax with nine recommendations for improvement (2,4). An Equipment Locator is being developed to make finding equipment easier for faculty and partners of the University (4) and will be launched in FY2013.
Following several organizational changes, ORIED undertook a review of its communications assets and developed new identity (e.g., web, jiffy screens, PowerPoint templates, and print collateral). Efforts to improve collaboration with University Communications have been effective (4), as evidenced by the Results partnership and increased profile of research and innovation topics in news articles, homepage features, and The Abstract.
SBTDC improved oversight of field operations by restructuring senior management and also consolidated statewide special program units under one senior manager (4). In collaboration with the Dept. of Revenue and NCCCS Small Business Network, SBTDC launched a highly successful Small Business Taxpayer Recovery program (5). SBTDC launched a Supply Chain Development initiative with two full-time counselors focused on building buyer/supplier connections and also an International Business Development program staffed by four full-time certified professional international trade consultants.
ORIED launched an initiative with Corporate and Foundation Relations to: provide more comprehensive services to partners seeking deeper collaborations; and ensure that a broader array of corporate and philanthropic entities are aware of and invest in NC State’ research enterprise (5). Major new partnerships moving toward completion include Eastman Chemical (July 2012) and the DOD Laboratory for Analytical Sciences (September 2013). OTT participated in multiple discussions with industry partners, (i.e., Bayer, Monsanto, Unilever, BASF, and Lord Corporation), to establish strategic partnerships.
New Venture Services was launched as part of Springboard. New Venture Services provides support and resources to faculty and students with an interest in launching new companies (2). A showcase portfolio – the NC State Fast 15 – was established to raise the visibility of our most promising commercialization opportunities. These efforts have significantly increased local engagement (5) and help to increase and expand faculty and students’ knowledge of innovation and entrepreneurship.
NCICS worked with Springboard to catalyze startup activities in the emergent climate adaptation sector (5). NCICS developed long-term collaborations with Duke Energy and related energy sector associations for discussion and experimentation with adaptation strategies (5).
ORIED successfully launched the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund (CIF) for technology development (2). In the inaugural year, four projects were selected from 57 applications, and all four have achieved significant milestones. Two companies have been established, and discussions with industry partners regarding licensing and/or providing additional technology development resources are underway. For the second CIF round, seven projects were selected from 99 applications. OTT’s engagement has significantly increased as evidenced by the increase in invention disclosures from 124 in FY2010 to 265 in FY2012 (4).
ORIED created the Innovator’s Portal to provide University innovators, college deans, and department heads enhanced access to the technologies, agreements, and patents OTT manages on their behalf. The completely paperless e-Disclosure process has been implemented to provide a process as painless as possible for inventors (4).
The Research Development Office (RDO) developed a professional development plan for new faculty and potential center directors (2,4). New faculty training aims to increase the effectiveness of early career faculty in planning and preparing competitive proposals for external research funding. Center director training aims to improve the leadership capacity of rising stars and their effectiveness in developing and leading competitive large-scale research center/team proposals.
VC Lomax co-chaired the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program selection committee with SVP Duane Larick (2,3). From 71 proposals submitted, 17 proposals representing all colleges were recommended to receive matching funding for 12 clusters and a total of 38 faculty positions. ORIED is guiding clusters not selected for funding to capitalize on their new relationships and prepare for other opportunities (3).
ORIED is establishing mechanisms to return overhead and distribute resources that promote interdisciplinary activities without disrupting traditional areas of strength (3). VC Lomax worked with Provost Arden and VC Leffler to create a single, unified fund for start-ups and retentions. With VC Leffler, VC Lomax coordinated the use of F&A and state funds to acquire equipment and instrumentation in shared facilities for both interdisciplinary and traditional activities (2).
ORIED launched an initiative to improve NC State’s defense and security cluster and has made significant progress in FY2012 with LAS (2), and major successes are expected in FY2013.
Interim AVC Randy Avent was hired and initiated DEFNET to build the community of defense-related industry in the region and developed the government agency relationships required to capitalize on our very strong technical and scientific potential (2). Interim AVC Avent is working to foster relationships among and between NC State researchers and improve their understanding of DOD, DHS, and other government agencies’ funding processes (2).
To increase awareness of NC State’s innovation efforts locally, we instigated, led the organization of, and played a prominent role in the initial InnovateRaleigh event in January 2012. Over 150 participants met for an energetic day at the Raleigh Convention Center, representing many aspects of the community, including entrepreneurs, academics, funders, economic developers and municipal leaders (5). Significant accomplishments following the event include an emerging innovation network, announcement of a non-stop flight from RDU to San Francisco, announcement of a fashion incubator in downtown Raleigh, development of co-working site near downtown Raleigh, and launch of Rex Strategic Innovations.
NCICS has enhanced gender diversity; women are 3 of 8 MS and 5 of 16 PhD scientists, which represents 33% of the scientific staff.
NCICS has hired several new staff members: Liqiang Sun, Deputy Science Lead (NCA); Jonathan Brannock, IT support; Andrew Buddenberg, Software Engineer (NCA); and five members for the CDR Software Support group.
A search is currently underway for a business development professional for Centennial Campus.
Dr. Randy K. Avent accepted the position of Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Development following Dr. Christopher S. Brown’s appointment as Vice President of Research and Graduate Education at UNC GA on June 1, 2012.
NCSG Executive Director and Water Resources Research Institute Director Michael Voiland won the ORIED EPA Award for Excellence. Science Writer/Editor E-Ching Lee of NCSG won the ORIED SPA Award for Excellence. The WRRI director was elected vice-chair of the state’s Sedimentation Control Commission and continued to serve on the State Water Infrastructure Commission (SWIC). Lisa Schiavinato (NCSG) begins her second year as president of The Coastal Society, with responsibilities including overseeing the 2012 international annual meeting of the Society.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCERNS
The number of proposal and award transactions has increased by 51% between fiscal years 2002 and 2011. Over the same period, staffing of the sponsored program services (SPS) component of SPARCS has decreased by 22% or 3.75 FTE. Unfunded Mandates involve additional administrative and regulatory burden not in play in 1991 when the 26% cap was instituted by OMB. Colleges have already taken on additional duties, such as processing subcontracts and submitting more proposals directly by delegating signature authority for more sponsors. There are few remaining means to achieve additional efficiencies; an associate director and computer programmer will be required to continue providing outstanding research administration services and decrease faculty burden, a goal of the NC State Strategic Plan.
The demand for Proposal Development Unit (PDU) services constantly exceeds capacity, because PDU is broadly recognized across campus for their success in developing competitive large-scale proposals. Sponsors are offering more large-scale opportunities, and more NC State researchers are interested in competing in large-scale opportunities. PDU has occasionally had to turn away projects over $1M during periods of high demand. An additional grants coordinator and proposal developer will increase capacity and allow PDU to offer valuable services to more faculty and especially to young faculty that would have long-term effects on their success. Hiring a Research Development Specialist would allow RDO to identify funding opportunities, then proactively assemble interdisciplinary teams to develop research programs and partnerships in advance of large opportunities.
Relocating Centennial Campus Partnership, the SBTDC, Economic Development Partnership, and OTT to Corporate Research I represents the physical launch of Springboard and allows the consolidation of innovation and economic development units under one roof.
NCICS’ continued success is predicated on a stable support base for administration, information technology, and space.
SBTDC does not have the capacity to pursue grants that require matching funds, which limits the potential for leveraging existing assets.
Centennial Campus Partnership is working to fill space vacated by Red Hat in the near-term, and in the long-term must anticipate future market demand for specific types of space (e.g., wet lab, high bay, etc.).
Federal efforts to refine the reporting rules related to lobbying, lobby disclosure and what is permissible continues to be a major point of emphasis. FRA will continue to disclose our activities and educate deans, department heads, and senior administrators at NC State with regard to the federal lobbying reporting requirements of the House and Senate. House Republicans and the Senate have agreed to ban earmarks for FY 2013, which will impact FRA efforts to reauthorize the Center for Transportation and the Environment. Federal funding of all research, development, and financial aid support will also be constrained by perceptions about the level of deficit spending. Continued support for science research funding within Congress will become a greater challenge in the near future as discretionary spending is cut to reduce the deficit, and communicating the value of research is important and necessary.
The national WRRI program was not included for funding in President Obama’s FY12 budget proposal for USGS, and if federal funding ends, the program will be forced to carry on with only its state matching support. The loss of federal funding ($93K annually) would destabilize the historic federal-state-university partnership that is a hallmark of the program.
ORIED is committed to contiguously co-locating the NCSG and WRRI within NC State’s Varsity Research Building. Staff in both programs need to be kept informed; prepared for the move; and work closely with NC State units involved with campus space moves.
A search for a new NCSG associate director for research will need to be initiated in fall 2012 such that a pool of candidates will be available for a new director (and a search committee) to screen and interview in early 2013.
The backlog of unreviewed and unapproved final WRRI research project reports needs to be addressed. A refined and working version of the eSG project and reporting system tailored for NCSG usage should be advanced and implemented as fully as practicable. NCSG program focus areas should be aligned with the new NCSG and national strategic plans. As required by the National Sea Grant Office, NCSG will need to undertake and complete three actions over the next year: 1) revise the NCSG strategic plan; 2) document NCSG impacts and achievements; and 3) draft and approve a charter for the NCSG Advisory Board.
NCICS provided four postdoctoral fellowships and hired a number of other Ph.D. and MS trained staff.