#InnovateRAL: The Start of Something Big

The conversation about a Raleigh Innovation Summit started last summer when a series of ideas were floated on launching entrepreneurial centers in downtown Raleigh. One group pitched a fashion incubator, another a music entrepreneurship center, still another a technology hub.

NC State was part of the conversation but it was clear that no single entity was providing leadership. We suggested hosting a Summit to give the community an opportunity to envision a unified innovation strategy for Raleigh/Wake County.

Along with the City of Raleigh, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, Raleigh Economic Development and Wake County Economic Development, NC State hosted this inaugural event at the Raleigh Convention Center on January 18. More than 175 people attended, representing government, area universities, non-profits, venture capital firms, and entrepreneurs. It was an amazing group — some in suits, others in jeans and
sneakers — all working with amazing energy on a common goal.

At the Summit, we focused on four areas of interest:

  • Creating an Innovation Center.
  • Branding Raleigh as an Innovation City.
  • Creating public/private/university partnerships.
  • Attracting more seed and venture funding to the region.

Clearly, participants want to move forward on an innovation center in downtown Raleigh. They envision a dramatic space with pull-up windows, moveable walls, great lighting. One participant said, "It has to be an experience."

Other trending ideas:

  • Securing a direct flight from Raleigh-Durham International Airport to the West Coast to connect entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
  • Getting high net worth Triangle residents involved in startup investment.
  • Creating an online map of the area's entrepreneurial support services and innovation resources.
  • Holding monthly Innovation Meetups to bring stakeholders together.
  • Creating a culture that encourages entrepreneurs and investors to take risks.

Participants highlighted Raleigh's assets. Time and time again, they said our competitive advantage is our three research universities — NC State, Carolina, and Duke. We couldn't agree more!

As a land grant university, NC State has an important mission: to support research; translate research into products and services that benefit the public; and support entrepreneurs and aid in job creation. To that end, NC State's Office of Research, Innovation and Economic Development will continue to provide leadership on the area's innovation initiatives.

After all, what happens in Raleigh is important to the University and vice versa. We need a place off campus so that our student entrepreneurs and NC State startups don't need to leave the area to grow their enterprises. We also need a great and dynamic city — and region — to attract top students and exceptional faculty.

NC State, working with our partners, will help ensure that the Raleigh Innovation Summit is only the beginning of the conversation on innovation and entrepreneurship. We can't wait for the next steps! Stayed tuned at innovation.ncsu.edu. And in the meantime, we hope you enjoy reading about our exciting researchers and innovators — and their accolades — in this issue of Results.

TERRI L. LOMAX
Vice Chancellor for
Research, Innovation and
Economic Development

 

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In November, Vice Chancellor Terri L. Lomax and Raleigh city leaders announced plans for the Raleigh Innovation Summit.