RALEIGH — NCInnovation, a nonprofit that says its mission is to connect the state’s research universities, industry partners and the private sector, is being watched by national observers.
Scott Cohn, a CNBC special correspondent, talked about the group in an interview with North State Journal following the announcement of the Tarheel State being named America’s Top State for Business for the second consecutive year.
“I’m definitely familiar with it, it’s a really interesting program. We know that the other states watch each other, they would see themselves as a model where they’re not just targeting individual industries, they’re targeting the whole state,” said Cohn.
Cohn and CNBC profiled a company at East Carolina University that is indicative of where NCInnovation sees its role.
The business network profiled Dr. Rukiyah Van Dross, a researcher at ECU, who has developed a cancer drug that attacks cancer cells and is ready to move to large-scale testing.
The therapeutic has proven effective in controlled lab settings but to advance to FDA analyses and potential human trials, production must be scaled.
Speaking about the company, Van Dross said she and her team want to build their company in the state, but may be forced to go elsewhere.
“If we can’t find that here, we’ll have to move to a place that really understands and nurtures innovation,” she said in the interview.
Cohn said it was a “little bit of a warning sign.”
“You think that every state wants to be an innovator and every state wants to be able to keep their innovators their innovations become commercially viable, and that’s what this is about,” he said.
“When we first heard about it, we didn’t know yet that North Carolina was going be the top state, but it seemed like it was an interesting story to pursue. It’s about not just the innovation, which of course North Carolina has always done so well with the Triangle, but it’s also how do you capitalize that on that that’s what they seem to be addressing or trying to address.”
The group in May said it had already raised more than $23 million to fund staff, overhead and expenses.
When the Senate budget passed, Senate Majority Leader Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus) said of NCInnovation, “Innovation at RTP laid the foundation for the Triangle’s decades-long growth. But we can’t view that success as the end of North Carolina’s story because to be satisfied is to fall behind. NCInnovation has a bold model to accelerate applied research and commercial outputs statewide, helping create jobs and secure our state’s future.”
The Senate budget allocated $1.4 billion to the effort – a sum much larger than those proposed by Gov. Roy Cooper and N.C. House leaders.
Business and university leaders both have touted the group, which is led by Bennet Waters, a 20-year senior executive who also served in two presidential administrations in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., voiced his support of the effort.
“With business all over the world we understand that innovation and scale begins locally, which is why we thought it especially important to support North Carolina’s entrepreneurial development through NCInnovation. This model holds great promise to expand North Carolina’s technology commercialization and serve as a blueprint to expand American innovation,” said Dimon.