RALEIGH (May 18, 2023) – The NC Senate’s proposed budget for next year would direct more than $1.4 billion – nearly 5% of the state budget – to a nonprofit to convert public university research to economic development outside the Triangle.
“We need to extend economic (vitality) into every corner of this state. To do so, we must take a visionary approach to creating jobs in our rural communities,” Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, a chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters this week.
“Simply put, we are leveraging our state’s surplus to help develop homegrown innovations.”1
The move is not unlike the Golden LEAF Foundation, which received part of the state’s tobacco settlement to support development in rural North Carolina, or an appropriation of $70 million last year for teacher pay supplements in all but the state’s five largest school districts.2
Jackson said the money would go to NCInnovation to improve and commercialize applied research at UNC campuses outside the Triangle.
The organization is based in Durham, and its board is chaired by former Truist CEO Kelly King. Its board members include UNC System President Peter Hans, Western Carolina University Chancellor Kelli Brown, UNC Charlotte Chancellor Sharon Gaber, N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold Martin and East Carolina Chancellor Philip Rogers.
A yearlong study revealed that “North Carolina is an absolute powerhouse on research and development funding,” said Jackson, with $13 billion in annual university and industry research.
But the study also revealed that 87% of those research dollars go to Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State University. Wake Forest accounts for another 7%, leaving just 6% for the state’s other universities.3
Despite its research strength, the state lags its peers in commercializing that research – especially outside its urban centers, Jackson said. NCInnovation will target applied research to actual market needs, he said, then help commercialize that research.
“This will help generate homegrown companies that will stay in North Carolina and hire North Carolinians,” he said.
The Internal Revenue Service would require an endowment of $1.425 billion to pay out an average of 5%, or more than $71 million a year.
“This is the type of opportunity that can transform the lives of generations of North Carolina residents by creating opportunities for them in their own communities,” Bennet Waters, NCInnovation’s CEO, told Business North Carolina.4
While major development announcements across the state in recent years were significant, Jackson said, “NCInnovation will partner with our world-class universities to build an engine to create homegrown industries and jobs of all shapes and sizes in our rural areas for decades to come.”5
2 https://webservices.ncleg.gov/ViewNewsFile/61/JointConferenceCommitteeReport_2022_06_28_final, p. 33/B15.
4 https://businessnc.com/3-things-to-know-about-senates-1-4-billion-plan-for-economic-development/. 5https://www.wral.com/story/nc-senate-budget-has-lower-raises-bigger-tax-cuts-and-a-threat-for-large-hospitals/20861813/.
L Williams says
Please help me understand what consititutes “outside the Triangle.” Duke, NC State and UNC-CH make up the “Triangle”. Therefore, outside should consist of other institutions or stakeholders. Why is most of the funds being distributed to two private universities, Duke and Wake Forest? Furthermore, the top three public research enterprises in the state consist of UNC-CH, NC State and NC A&T. Therefore, the funds should be distribute equitably. As a tax payer and graduate of two of these institutions (private and state), this should never have passed the house.