Durham, NC - 4/8/2024

NCInnovation Launches Pilot Grant Program to Accelerate University Research Commercialization Across North Carolina

Durham, NC – NCInnovation, a non-profit organization that helps unlock the innovative potential of North Carolina’s world-class public universities, today announced an initial pilot grant program to support public university applied research that has commercial promise.  NCInnovation helps university inventions advance towards commercialization – accelerating the transition from academia to industry – by supporting university applied research through the critical R&D phase between proof concept and readiness for the private market.

“NCInnovation’s mission is to bridge the gap between academia and industry, fostering economic growth and opportunity across North Carolina,” said Bennet Waters, CEO of NCInnovation. “With the launch of this initial grant program, we are taking a significant step towards realizing this vision by providing crucial funding and coordination to help researchers advance their discoveries toward commercialization. By supporting university research at a crucial R&D phase, we can unleash North Carolina’s innovation potential and create economic opportunities in all regions of the state.”

NCInnovation’s grant program supports researchers at North Carolina universities by:

  • building capacity in applied research;
  • bolstering technology development, support, and licensing;
  • supporting IP development and patent protection; and
  • advancing R&D toward commercial viability.

NCInnovation expects to fund 6-8 pilot grants in this initial round. The pilot approach will allow NCInnovation to test processes and procedures, and inform additional program development, before scaling the grant program to a statewide RFP later this year.

In recent months, NCInnovation’s Regional Innovation Network Directors have worked closely with NC public research university leaders and faculty located withing its four regional areas to understand research portfolios, cultivate an innovation network, and identify projects with commercial promise. University leaders ultimately decided which projects to put forward for pilot grant consideration, and NCInnovation’s Board of Directors, the majority of which is appointed by the North Carolina General Assembly, will ultimately approve which projects receive funding. Private companies are not eligible.

The selection criteria for the pilot grant program has been carefully designed to ensure rigorous evaluation and prioritization of projects with the highest potential for commercialization. Pilot grant applicants will undergo a multi-phase review process that include a pre-application, a full application, and an external expert review panel. Projects that meet or exceed the established criteria will be submitted for approval by the NCInnovation Board of Directors. All reviewers will have executed non-disclosure and conflict of interest statements. Funding will be allocated based on specific funding needs outlined in grant recipient project plans.

As part of its cooperative agreements, and as required by law, NCI will require any companies that emerge from research funded by NCInnovation grants to maintain its headquarters and principal place of business in North Carolina for a minimum of five years, and be organized under the laws of this State for any commercialization resulting from or furthered by, in whole or part, such funds or support. NCInnovation cooperative agreement terms and conditions will include claw back provisions and/or other economic penalties for companies that do not fulfill these obligations.

As outlined in statutory requirements, NCInnovation has notified the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations of its grant program. NCInnovation grant funding will be disseminated through the North Carolina Collaboratory, which already has a grant distribution system in place.

The pilot grant program is the first NCInnovation funding initiative and will be followed by a statewide grant process that is expected to be announced later this year. For more information and updates, please visit and follow the organization on LinkedIn here.

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