The Download: Wade Fulghum, Assistant Vice Chancellor, NC State University

Wade Fulghum serves as the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Commercialization for NC State University. He leads the office whose mission is to facilitate the commercialization of innovative research discoveries that seek to address the world’s grandest challenges, thereby driving economic growth in North Carolina and around the world. He propels this mission by creating and overseeing programs aimed at discovering, validating and strengthening NC State technologies and teams. Research commercialization is achieved through licensing intellectual property to industry and the launch and support of startups.

Wade serves as the principal investigator and Managing Director for the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Site at NC State, and serves as the principal investigator on the proposed NSF Mid-Atlantic Hub in collaboration with 10 leading research institutions in the region. He is the co-founder of the Wolfpack Investor Network (WIN) and serves as the Chair of the WIN Steering Committee. Wade serves as the Chair of the North Carolina Small Business Technology Development Center (SBTDC) Research Triangle Advisory Board, and serves on the statewide SBTDC Advisory Board and the NC State Alumni Entrepreneurs Network Board.

Prior to assuming the leadership role for the office, Wade served as the Director of New Ventures for over six years and has been responsible for the support of over 100 research-based startups and has launched initiatives including the PackStart Program, the Executive In Residence (XIR) program, and the partnership with the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) Venture Mentor program.

Wade received his Bachelors of Finance from the University of Florida as well as a Masters of Business Administration from Hawaii Pacific University focusing on Organizational Change Management. He brings over 20 years of experience both as a small business owner and advising companies locally and globally, and is a veteran of the US Army.

1. What is in your pockets?
Nothing right now, I am settled in my home office. But when I do go out it is usually a face mask, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, my phone and bank cards.

2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?
The name of our offices has changed recently. We’re now the Office of Research Commercialization—basically, the tech transfer operation for NC State. We’re a team of over 20 people and we have two main jobs. Overall we serve as the stewards for all intellectual property created at NC State. That falls into two real functions. One is a compliance function where we monitor compliance with agreements and research contracts and with IP and USPTO (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) law. The second, much more exciting part is commercialization, which is doing licenses and options with industry and launching research-based startups.

Personally, I accepted the role of Vice Chancellor for the Office of Research Commercialization (ORC) (after being interim for over two years) and was able to bring new support team members in new ventures, compliance and operations.

We achieved the charge of my previous boss, Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Al Rebar, in 2019 to “beat Purdue in the number of research-based startups” in our FY19 closeout. This should move NC State to the No. 2-in-the-U.S. position for research-based startups for all universities without a medical school, only trailing MIT.

We were ranked #20 in the George Bush Institute list for “The Innovation Impact of US Universities” study in June 2020.  NC State also made “The Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Utility Patents in 2019.”

The Research Triangle also made “THE GLOBAL STARTUP ECOSYSTEM REPORT 2020 (GSER 2020), Rankings 2020: Top 100 Emerging Ecosystems.”

We have successfully secured multiple grants in association with the Kenan Institute at NC State (KIETS) to support our NSF I-Corps Industry Mentor Program and our SBIR/STTR Sparkplug program, and another grant from NSF that will allow us to roll out the Protopia software platform university-wide to better connect the Wolfpack family.

NC State startups have also been very successful including Locus Biosciences’ historic licensing deal and collaboration agreement.

3. What is your favorite coffee spot?
Since March, I have enjoyed drinking my morning coffee in different virtual backgrounds as I join Zoom meetings both internal and external around my position at NC State. I rotate my favorite three coffee mugs depending on the subject of the Zooms and the audience. I use my large New York City Starbucks mug to remind me that leadership matters in fighting the pandemic and if they make it work in New York, then we can make it anywhere—to borrow a line from Frank (Sinatra). My Starbucks Hawaii mug reminds me of what it is like to travel and to go to the beach. Finally, my NC Zoo Elephant mug reminds me that our kids are going through this pandemic and uncertain time as well, and to always keep that in mind.

4. What keeps you up at night?
Thinking about where we go from where we are now as a country—economically, politically, socially. My son is a rising senior in high school and like many of the members in our family is seeking to serve in the military. I think about what the U.S. and world might look like in another year.

5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?
I love the downtown Raleigh restaurant scene. Bida Manda, Brewery Bhavana, Caffe Luna, Taverna Agora, Irregardless Cafe, and Tupelo Honey have been my favorites. That said, I am worried about them all amidst this pandemic and ensuing financial crisis.

6. What is next for you or your organization?
We’re busier than ever. We were asked to join the NSF Mid-Atlantic HUB proposal with nine other leading research universities in the region. This would be a $15M five-year effort to continue our work in changing the culture of American university research by instructing and incorporating the voice of customers and the market into the calculus for researchers interested in commercializing their research for the benefit of the public.

We look to strengthen our key partnerships with Poole College of Management, CED, FFV, SBTDC, Raleigh Founded, WIN, TVA, and the Kenan Institute.

We are also doubling our efforts to support research-based startups in successfully commercializing their research through two new team members hired recently.

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About Brooks Malone 48 Articles
Brooks Malone is a NC CPA and Partner with Hughes Pittman & Gupton, LLP, and leads the Technology practice group. Brooks is also listed contributor to the National Fast Trac Tech Curriculum that was funded by the Kauffman Foundation. Brooks was named one of the 40 Under 40 in May 2005 by the TBJ, received the Outstanding service to Entrepreneurs Award in 2008 by CED, and named to the Leadership Raleigh Hall of Fame in October 2011. Brooks is a graduate of North Carolina State University and is active at American Underground and Raleigh Founded.