The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees announced Wednesday the formation of the Carolina Research Venture Fund, a fund to help University start-up companies overcome funding gaps, accelerate growth and more quickly bring Carolina’s best-in-class research to real-world application.
“Some of the best and brightest ideas in science and business are right here on campus, and we can advance both their application and the University’s mission by investing and accelerating their growth early on,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “By bridging the capital gap for our own start-up companies, we can make sure the innovative ideas and products created by early-stage companies reach the individuals who need them most.”
Carolina ranks among the top 10 research universities in the country and has sought ways to transform ideas from its labs into the marketplace to create new companies, products and services, and jobs. In recent years, state and University leaders have put an increased focus on commercializing the University’s intellectual property to strengthen the state’s economy. Since taking office in 2013, N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory has called on the state’s universities to be leaders in these efforts.
Sallie Shuping-Russell, a managing director at BlackRock and member of the Board of Trustees, said the fund will help move ideas from University labs to the commercial marketplace, one of the most important benefits UNC can provide to the people of North Carolina and beyond. Shuping-Russell earlier chaired the board’s Finance Committee and currently serves on the Innovation and Impact Committee.
“Many of our UNC start-ups are working on breakthrough ideas and solutions that could greatly benefit the public. However, because private investment capital is not broadly available at this earliest stage, these ideas struggle to get translated into practice use. That lack of capital keeps University research innovations from developing into commercial products because investors want more developed technologies. Such a gap in funding can be hard to overcome,” she said. “This fund will help unlock these young companies’ potential and get their products into the hands of businesses and consumers by providing early capital and leveraging our relationships with the national venture capital community.”
The fund will be overseen by a board of directors, composed of trustees, administrators, researchers and others. The board will hire one or more independent managers to oversee the fund operations. It will also have an advisory bard of leading venture capitalists from across the nation.
This concept was approved by the Board of Trustees in 2013, the culmination of an earlier board directive to the University for a plan that would successfully translate its research into the marketplace. Since then, a committee of trustees, administrators and faculty has worked to develop a separate organizational structure through which Carolina can help fund promising new technologies. The fund will begin with $5 million, derived from investment earnings on non-state funds.
“As the Carolina Research Venture Fund proves its success, we will continue to invest in and energize its growth with additional capital,” said Folt.
The Carolina Research Venture Fund adds to Carolina’s long-standing culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. The University has a number of avenues through which students and faculty can amplify their ideas, such as Launching the Venture, the CUBE social innovation hub at the Campus Y, Launch Chapel Hill, Carolina Challenge, Carolina KickStart, the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise and the Office of Technology Development. More information is available at innovate.unc.edu.