Since last summer, I’ve had the privilege to serve on North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s Innovation-to-Jobs (I2J) Working Group, whose recommendations were released by the governor 2 weeks ago. I share this with you today because (a) I’m proud of the hard work the group did and (b) our process and approach to developing an implementation plan might serve as a model for others seeking to extract more value from their state’s university R&D.
At its inception, the goal of the Innovation-to-Jobs Working Group was:
To enable North Carolina’s world-class research universities to convert more of their innovative expertise and intellectual property into corresponding world-class economic growth, prosperity, and jobs.
The working group will produce a targeted list of 3-5 actionable recommendations and implementation steps focused on ways NC’s research universities can increase and improve the following two activities:
1. Creation and spin-out of start-up companies
2. Generation of licensing revenue
Longtime readers of this blog (and even some newer readers) can guess my response to the pairing of “more startups” and “more licensing revenue” as goals. I shared with the group my insights about these being mutually exclusive goals that did not improve job creation and the innovation ecosystem in the long term. (BTW, here’s what I think does.) I also emphasized the importance of having the state’s universities be more collaborative, breaking down the silos that separate them.
Our goal shifted and refined into a focus on improving the entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole. As a result, the group worked to identify several real targets to deal with the challenges we had observed:
We used a survey to collect input from more than 500 well-informed stakeholders. This input reinforced that we were headed in the right direction by examining the whole ecosystem holistically, rater than silos or single programs.
We submitted our recommendations to the governor in October, and he has been working with stakeholders to secure buy-in before moving forward on any specific recommendations. This process included presenting the recommendations to the UNC Board of Governors on January 16th. The video clip below begins (at 12:45) with a recap of the working group’s formation, with the three university-focused recommendations covered at 14:33–19:07. You can look at or download the slides here or check out this recap by WRAL TechWire’s “The Skinny” columnist Rick Smith.
Speakers are the governor’s chief of staff Thomas Stith and our working group co-chairs UNC’s VP for Research & Graduate Education Chris Brown and Clay Thorp of Hatteras Venture Partners.
If you watch through to 19:42, you’ll hear Clay mention that the working group accepted 1-page recommendations for solutions. Again, longtime readers won’t be surprised at the suggestion I offered — Centralized Tech Transfer Foundation for NC Public Universities and Colleges — which is closely related to a white paper we released in 2011.) You can download this recommendation, which includes a list of university tech transfer research foundations, by registering on our In-Depth Insights section.
It was a real pleasure to be part of a group of colleagues who were incredibly productive, candid, and realistic. I look forward to my continued participation with the group (we did pledge to meet for life ) and watching the progress North Carolina makes in this area.