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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.

NC State Innovator and Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

Chancellor Names 2023 Innovator and Entrepreneur of the Year Award Winners

Nomination Guidelines

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 July 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, and nominees must be commercializing university-owned intellectual property to be eligible for award.

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

Nomination Criteria

The following criteria should be considered when preparing your two-page 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 Awardees

Innovator of the Year Awardees

2023Dr. Brian Floyd
2022Dr. Craig Yencho & Mr. Ken Pecota
2020Dr. Robert Heath
2019Dr. Tom Ranney
2017Dr. Fran Ligler
2016Dr. Rodolphe Barrangou
2015Dr. Sylvia Blankenship & Dr. Todd Klaenhammer
2014Dr. Paul Franzon
2013Dr. R. Michael Roe
2012Dr. Jere Confrey & Dr. Josip Simunovic
2011Dr. Kenneth Swartzel & Dr. Orlin Velev
2010Dr. Behnam Pourdeyhimi

Entrepreneur of the Year Awardees

2023Dr. Franky So
2022Mr. Marshall Brain
2020Dr. Fred Kish
2019Ms. Lisa Chang
2017Dr. Matthew Breen & Dr. Marian McCord
2016Dr. Michael Escuti
2015Mr. Lewis Sheets
2014Dr. Ken Adler
2013Dr. Jayant Baliga
2012Dr. John Cavanagh, Dr. Christian Melander,
& Dr. Mary Tschirhart
2011Mr. Roger Debo & Dr. John S. Risley
2010Dr. Tom Miller

Past Press Releases

NC State Awards 2022 Innovator & Entrepreneur of the Year

While the pandemic may have prevented in-person gatherings for a couple of years, innovation had no choice to not only continue but to blossom. That was no different at NC State — where, as just one example, our Nonwovens Institute partnered with UNC Health and others to manufacture N95 masks for frontline workers. 

For over 30 years, NC State University has held an annual Celebration of Innovation, awarding an innovator of the year and an entrepreneur of the year….

NC State Awards 2020 Innovator & Entrepreneur of the Year

NC State has a long history of innovative research — aimed at solving the world’s toughest challenges.

And the way our university’s employees responded to the unique challenges of the past year exemplifies our innovative culture — from the thousands who abruptly pivoted to working remotely, to every researcher who’s shifted focus and pitched in their expertise toward combatting the COVID-19 pandemic…

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).