Durham, NC - 4/25/2024

NCInnovation: Just the Facts

NCInnovation unlocks the innovative potential of North Carolina’s world-class public universities. We provide grant funding to public university applied researchers working on discoveries that have commercial promise, helping advance those discoveries toward commercialization.

Here are 10 key facts to know about NCInnovation:

  1. NCInnovation provides grant funding to North Carolina public university applied researchers. Grant funds are sent to university researchers by the NC Collaboratory, based at UNC-Chapel Hill, through the universities at which the researchers work. We do not fund or invest in private companies, take equity positions of any kind, or benefit from the future financial success of grant recipients.
  2. NCInnovation awards grants based on competitive, merit-based applications from university researchers. Grant applications undergo a rigorous evaluation. NCInnovation prioritizes projects with the highest potential for commercialization. That is, the applied research we fund has potential to result in job creation, new companies, and licensing arrangements with private industry in North Carolina.
  3. NCInnovation research support focuses intensely on a critical phase of the university R&D sequence known as the “valley of death.” This phase begins after a concept has been shown to work in a lab, but before the private sector will engage. Securing funding is challenging in this phase and is where many proofs of concept die on the vine or flee to other states with stronger innovation ecosystems. NCInnovation does not supplant the role of the private sector; its funding ensures viable proofs of concept survive to the point of creating economic value and jobs for North Carolina.  
  4. State funding is in an NCInnovation endowment. The initial State of North Carolina appropriation created an endowment that earns interest and investment income, which funds regional innovation networks, grants, and other university research support. The endowment model does not require recurring taxpayer investment.
  5. Private funding supports NCInnovation’s administrative and overhead expenses. Some of the best-known companies in North Carolina and the United States have committed more than $25 million in philanthropic donations to support NCInnovation’s mission as a public-private partnership. See a list of contributors here.
  6. Companies that emerge from university applied research supported by NCInnovation must maintain their headquarters and main place of business in North Carolina for at least five years. Additionally, these companies must be legally incorporated in North Carolina for any commercial activities that use or build upon the research funded or supported by NCInnovation, also for a minimum of five years.
  7. The North Carolina General Assembly appoints a majority of NCInnovation’s Board of Directors. The 13 directors on NCInnovation’s board have centuries of combined experience in business, research, and academia.
  8. NCInnovation is subject to extensive transparency requirements. We comply with open meetings and public records laws; conflict of interest requirements; audit and financial reporting rules; and annual oversight via standing reports to the General Assembly.
  9. NCInnovation bolsters the university-to-industry innovation pipeline that has underpinned American technological dominance for decades. Some of the most impactful technological advancements in history were born on American campuses and commercialized by American companies: the pacemaker, the Polio vaccine, the MRI scanner, seat belts, resilient grain seeds that have fed the world, and more.
  10. NCInnovation is executing its legislative mandate to support North Carolina public university research that has commercial promise. In the six-month period since the state budget funding NCInnovation became law, notable accomplishments include:
    • Created four regional innovation networks anchored by hub institutions and staffed by regional directors collocated at UNC System campuses around the state;
    • Initiated a statewide technology development strategy, which we anticipate publishing in the coming months to guide future applied research investments across North Carolina;
    • Assembled a veteran leadership team with deep expertise in their respective fields;
    • Fulfilled all FY24 legislative requirements, to include amendments to our Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, and new Conflict of Interest and Gift policies;
    • Established separate bank accounts for State and private funds, earning more than $3.1 million in interest on the State funds;
    • Finalized and launched an RFP for an independent third-party investment manager to oversee the NCInnovation endowment;
    • Finalized our core programs and criteria, and provided the required notices to the General Assembly;
    • Surpassed the FY25 funding requirement to achieve at least $25 million in private philanthropic commitments;
    • Collaborated with our regional innovation network universities to launch an initial pilot grant process.

NCInnovation is 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation focused intensely on accelerating commercialized innovation from North Carolina’s universities. NCInnovation deploys funding, mentors, and support services so that North Carolina university proofs-of-concept turn into companies and create jobs that remain in North Carolina. Learn more at