UNC Eship Center And RTP Foundation Kick Off New Partnership

UNC professors shared research findings on the latest Trends In Entrepreneurship Report on Tuesday at an event kicking off a new partnership between the UNC Eship Center and the RTP Foundation.

The Triangle tech community has a new partnership to potentially benefit from that will connect UNC and RTP companies.

UNC’s Entrepreneurship Center has partnered with the Research Triangle Park Foundation (RTF) in a move they say will capitalize on and expand the existing relationship and synergy between their two organizations.

The Eship Center and RTF announced their partnership Tuesday morning and also outlined key research findings from the Eship Center’s latest Trends in Entrepreneurship Report with a panel of three UNC Kenan-Flagler professors—Dr. Jim Johnson Jr., Dr. Greg Brown and Dr. Chris Bingham.

Students will be able to grow from the increased internships and special projects with RTP companies, said Doug Shackleford, the Dean of Kenan-Flagler Business School. The collaboration includes developing an office outpost for the Eship Center in the Frontier RTP campus.

Scott Levitan, RTF’s CEO, made clear that he very much views the benefits as flowing in both directions.

“Our larger companies in RTP are very interested in finding ways to collaborate with startup companies to collaborate and support internships with students and grad students coming out of the universities,” said Levitan. “And what a blessing, really, to have Eship fall into our lap and say, we would really like to have a landing party at the Frontier.”

In the virtual event, professors shared their insights on entrepreneurship trends as the Covid-19 pandemic nears the one-year mark, depending on when you start the clock. 

Brown discussed how the pandemic unleashed a broad variety of new forces that reshaped the economy at unprecedented speeds. The report “Seven Forces Reshaping the Economy Amid and Beyond Covid-19” outlines the major pandemic-induced shifts that affect the Triangle.

“Innovation is a driving force for economic growth,” Brown said. “It’s important all the time, but it’s especially important when there’s something that disrupts the economy. So this disruption, by definition, reshapes the economics of business. And it creates the opportunity for innovation to solve new problems that are created by this disruption.”

Gaming technology has continued growth opportunities in the remote work tech space, including for events and conferences, as well as in education technology, Brown said. Domestic biopharma research and production is also likely to expand after this Covid-19 shock.

Bingham brought up the important role that accelerators play in fostering innovation. This relies on compressed feedback from many mentors.

“How can we informally link arms with others to accelerate innovation, to accelerate entrepreneurship? How can we do this in fast and frugal ways? Yeah, we’ve got formal partnerships and agreements and all that stuff. But how can we do this in fast and informal ways? That’s what accelerators are really trying to do.”

Improved diversity aids on multiple metrics

Johnson said North Carolina has become a major migration destination, welcoming about 150 newcomers every day. Due to these disruptive demographic trends, Johnson said the partnership needs to work diligently to ensure our business ecosystems are inclusive toward historically marginalized groups like racial minorities, women and the LGTBQ community. This also includes assisting older entrepreneurs who want to solve a problem and leave a legacy impact as well as educating the public about supply chains.

“I think increasingly, when we look at the sort of fallout from the Black Lives Matter protest movement and a whole range of other disruptive forces, I think our reputational equity as a state is going to be increasingly important in the future attractiveness of our community as a place to live and do business,” Johnson said.

The Trends in Entrepreneurship Report found positive effects of immigration on entrepreneurship, with immigrants accounting for around a quarter of entrepreneurship in the U.S. New H-1B visa regulations could have unintended consequences, Eship Center Executive Director Vickie Gibbs said.

When it comes to diversity in the workforce, Gibbs said they looked at why companies are not meeting their diversity goals, and it goes far beyond recruiting.

“We looked at why it matters,” Gibbs said. “And a lot of times people are like, well, qualitatively it is important. But it’s actually quantitatively, too. There’s better financial performance when you have diverse teams and there’s an increase in innovation.”

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About Suzanne Blake 137 Articles
Suzanne profiles startups and innovation for GrepBeat. She is also a junior studying journalism and political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Reach Suzanne at suzanne@grepbeat.com.