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Celebration of Innovation

Since 1990, NC State has held an annual Celebration of Innovation, awarding an innovator of the year and an entrepreneur of the year, and recognizing faculty and graduate student inventors who are turning NC State research into real-world results, launching startups and patenting technologies.

Innovator and Entrepreneur of the Year Awards


A call for nominations for the Innovator and Entrepreneur of the Year awards is typically sent out to Deans, Department Heads, and Associate Deans for Research in early summer of each year.

A selection committee composed of past award winners will evaluate the nominations and make recommendations to the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation. The individual selected to receive each award will be recognized by the Chancellor at ORC’s annual Celebration of Innovation and Entrepreneurship to be held in October at the Chancellor’s Residence.

Each Associate Dean for Research may nominate up to two candidates for each award. Each Department Head, Center Director or other interested party may nominate one individual for each award. Previous winners are not eligible for the award they have already received.

Nominations should include a letter of support no longer than 2 pages addressing the criteria described below.

Nomination Criteria

The following criteria should be considered when preparing your nomination letter:

Innovator of the Year Criteria:

  • Patents Awarded
  • Licenses Executed based on Innovator’s technology
  • Industry Collaboration – number of companies engaged, research dollars attracted, resulting patents or licenses, etc.
  • Impact – The ultimate sign of a successful innovation is a product on the market that is making an impact. Impact can be measured in a number of ways: enhanced products or services for consumers, products that improve quality of life, products that create new markets, etc.

Dr. John S. Risley Entrepreneur of the Year Criteria:

  • Impact of companies and/or non-profits launched or supported – the impact can be measured in involvement with new startup companies, the number of jobs created, revenue generated, production of products or services that benefit consumers and/or improve the quality of life, etc.
  • Demonstrates the best traits of entrepreneurship, including business creativity and perseverance.
  • Entrepreneurial Impact – Encourages entrepreneurialism both on and off campus.

Questions about the awards process?

Contact us to discuss the nomination process

Past Events & Awardees

Chancellor Names 2021 Innovator and Entrepreneur of the Year Award Winners

NC State Awards 2019 Innovator & Entrepreneur of the Year

NC State has continued to bolster its reputation as one of the world’s top-tier research institutions – ranking No. 2 in licenses and options executed and No. 4 in startups launched across all U.S. universities without a medical school.

So being recognized as the Innovator of the Year or the Entrepreneur of the Year is no small feat on this campus. Chancellor Randy Woodson presented the awards Oct. 1 at this year’s Celebration of Innovation…

Top Innovator, Entrepreneurs Honored

On a campus crowded with world-leading faculty spinning off startup companies and writing patent applications at a record-breaking pace, the annual awards for innovator of the year and entrepreneur of the year may be the toughest competition outside of Stockholm.

NC State Celebrates Innovation and Entrepreneurship

NC State held its 27th Celebration of Innovation and Entrepreneurship to recognize the outstanding achievements of its faculty inventors over the last year. With over 500 products to market and over 125 startups launched, NC State continues to contribute to the economy of North Carolina and the nation as a whole.

NC State Holds Celebration of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

NC State has a long history of driving economic growth through the commercialization of its research discoveries, with over 500 products to market and 100 startup companies launched. The Office of Technology Transfer continued this tradition in 2015 by executing 139 commercialization agreements and breaking records for startups created (12) and revenue generated ($7.6M).