NC State Celebrates Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Brian Floyd was honored with the Innovator of the Year award, and Franky So received the Entrepreneur of the Year award.
NC State held its 32nd Celebration of Innovation Tuesday to recognize the achievements of faculty inventors and startup founders, as well as announce an innovator of the year and an entrepreneur of the year.
As a leading institution in research commercialization nationwide, NC State is home to infrastructure and ideas that have served as a springboard for innovations ranging from new CRISPR gene-editing technologies to canine cancer diagnostics. On the evening of Oct. 3rd, Chancellor Randy Woodson presented this year’s awards to two successful researchers in an event at his residence on Centennial Campus, The Point.
This year, Woodson announced Brian Floyd as the winner of the 2023 Innovator of the Year award and Franky So as the winner of the 2023 John S. Risley Entrepreneur of the Year award.
Woodson also recognized the six winning projects of the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund, as well as the 14 research-based startups that were launched within the last year.
Keep reading to learn more about those recognized.
Innovator of the Year
Brian Floyd, the Alton and Mildred Lancaster Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was recognized with the Innovator of the Year award for his trailblazing work in the areas of radio frequency (RF) and millimeter-wave (mmWave) integrated circuits.
Over the course of his career as a researcher at IBM and NC State, Floyd created several of the first solutions for mmWave radios in silicon technology. Historically, solutions using these frequencies required costly technologies and, therefore, were limited to the military or other specialized applications. At least until Floyd and his colleague’s groundbreaking work, which discovered how to create mmWave radios and radars by utilizing the same low-cost silicon technology found in affordable 3G cell phones — thus enabling new, large markets for mmWave frequencies. Floyd also played a key role in the creation of some of the first solutions for 60 gigahertz (GHz) radios and phased arrays in silicon, which have been licensed to several companies. These also provided a foundation for the industry’s first 5G cellular solution, at 28 GHz, marketed by IBM, Ericsson, and Verizon. His 60 GHz radios are still in production today.
Floyd’s innovative work in high-frequency integrated circuits and mmWave radio and radar systems has enabled improvements in wireless communication rates and improved safety in vehicular radar systems. Floyd’s leadership of impactful research programs at IBM and NC State has resulted in over $30 million in funding. Floyd is also an inventor on 32 issued patents and his IBM patents served as the foundation for several IBM licensing agreements.
He was nominated for the award by Veena Misra, interim head of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and co-director of NC State’s ASSIST Nanosystems Center.
Entrepreneur of the Year
Franky So, the Walter and Ida Freeman Distinguished Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, was recognized with the John S. Risley Entrepreneur of the Year award for his work with organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technologies and the role of his research in the founding of five startup companies.
A pioneer in the field of OLED technology, So’s time in industry with companies such as Motorola yielded major contributions to the field, including inventions that greatly increased the flexibility and operating lifetimes of OLED displays. Displays found in today’s iPhones, Samsung Galaxy phones and Apple Watches are all a direct result of So’s innovations. An inventor on over 100 issued patents, So was appointed as a Fellow to the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) in 2012.
So has launched two startup companies since he joined NC State in 2015. The first company has licensed So’s polymer solar technology to develop more efficient solar cells at a lower cost, targeting applications ranging from electric vehicles to wearable electronics. The second company focuses on the development of next-generation OLEDs, aiming to significantly increase the operational lifetime and efficiency of these devices. Both companies have collaborated with NC State on research projects exceeding $3 million in total.
He was nominated for the award by Donald Brenner, head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
Also recognized at this year’s Celebration of Innovation were recent winners of the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund and NC State research-based startup companies launched within the past fiscal year.
Yuntian Zhu, Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, was inducted as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in 2023.
National Inventors Hall of Fame
Rodolphe Barrangou, the Todd R. Klaenhammer Distinguished Professor in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences, was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2023. He is the seventh NC State faculty member to be elected to the hall.
Chancellor’s Innovation Fund
- “Animal Heart Monitoring with Wearable IMUs” – David Roberts and Alper Bozkurt
- “Biocatalytic Textile Filters for CO2 Capture” – Sonja Salmon
- “Biomaterial CAR-T Cell Factories” – Yevgeny Brudno and Pritha Agarwalla
- “Evaluation of Commercially Viable Spore Traps for Detection of Clade 1 & Clade 2 Downy Mildew on Cucurbits” – Lina Quesada, Lirong Xiang, Hunter Brown, and Ramya Vijapurapu
- “Developing a Market-Ready Scour Monitoring System” – Chadi Sayde, Celso Castro-Bolinaga, Mahmoud Shehata
- “Manufacturing Epigenetically Modified, Custom DNA Oligos Through Sustainable Enzymatic Synthesis” – Albert Kueng
- Aja Labs
- Ajax Bio
- Ancilia Biosciences
- BASEwise Solutions
- Depict Bio
- Emperor Spirits
- Hoofprint Biome
- NC Solar Inverters
- Redeem Solar
- Selsym Biotech