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Moonshot Recommendation #2: An Energized R&D Public-Private Partnership Initiative

And, why it matters to you as a resident of the Wilmington Region:

If our leading businesses partner with UNCW in research programs, here are possible benefits— new patents will be filed, new products will be developed, and new businesses will spin out or start up. Angel and Venture Capital investors will make new investments; initial public offerings will occur. Local stockholder/investors will prosper and the Wilmington Region will generate five new jobs for every one from the ventures. This has happened in Raleigh, just as it has happened in TechHubs across the country. We grow jobs and prosperity with no loss to our exceptional quality of life. UNCW prospers at the same time. A classic winning strategy for all.

The following is how it can happen here:

The Wilmington Region has attracted or grown organically a steadily increasing number of businesses and industries that are capable of significant growth. UNCW has a scattering of partnerships with the private sector. We believe a concerted strategic effort could generate many more. NC State in Raleigh is an example of a diversified Engineering School, twice as large as UNCW, that has used public-private partnerships to great advantage.

The Milken Institute is a West Coast think tank that periodically ranks the strongest regions of the country. It recently ranked Raleigh #2 in the country among large cities. For example, Raleigh is at 259% of the national average for patents produced in a region, while the Wilmington Region is particularly weak in patents, at a lagging 32% of the national average. This is one obvious source of the dynamic Raleigh business environment. The Milken Institute puts it this way: “NC State ranked in top tier of Milken's index of best universities for technology transfer and commercialization, ranking 25th in the country. It’s Centennial Campus houses more than 75 research centers and academic departments alongside a similar number of private, NFP and government partners, expanding the ability of academic and industry to collaborate and innovate.”

NC State has built this powerhouse over many years, and it will not be duplicated. But a concerted, well-targeted marketing program identifying the best talents and research at UNCW, casting a broad net for partners, supplementing departments with visiting professors, recruiting or partnering with other universities to round out capabilities would make the Wilmington Region a powerhouse in its own areas of economic strength. Matching that effort by aggressive promotion to encourage partnering by Chambers of Commerce and regional leadership is a necessary corollary to project success.

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