The state of North Carolina is frequently listed in top lists of innovative states by the likes of Bloomberg Business and CNBC. The Washington Post even named North Carolina one of its “Innovation Champions” for 2015.
How does a state like North Carolina build a reputation for innovation?
Just ask the North Carolina Board of Science, Technology & Innovation, which held its latest meeting at Biotech Place in the Innovation Quarter, one of the fastest growing urban-based innovation districts in the U.S.
The board, comprised of educators, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from across North Carolina, is dedicated to developing the economic well-being of the state by keeping it on the forefront of innovation in science and technology.
The recent meeting illuminated three ways that North Carolina has worked to grow its reputation as an innovative state:
1. Stimulate Innovation Ecosystems
In 2014, the Board of Science, Technology & Innovation—which had been the Board of Science & Technology since its founding in 1963—added the “innovation” component to its name and mission due to the large sector of economic growth that could be attributed to innovations.
From that point, the board focused on developing the contexts that foster innovation—what they call “innovation ecosystems.” To promote a state-wide innovation ecosystem, the group concentrates on the smaller innovation ecosystems that make up the larger whole, plugging their resources into creating healthy microcosms of innovation.
2. Track Innovation Growth
One of the board’s initiatives is to produce an innovation index, called “Tracking Innovation,” that tracks North Carolina’s performance across 39 innovation measures. By comparing the state with the rest of the country, the report helps identify the strengths and weaknesses of innovation within North Carolina and establish bench marks for progress.
By assessing what areas of economy and innovation need to be improved in North Carolina, the Board of Science, Technology & Innovation identifies places to intervene and promote growth. Their findings help inform state decisions on economic policies.
3. Support Small Businesses
North Carolina helps small businesses compete with larger businesses by providing very needed startup and development funds. The board oversees the One NC Small Business Program Grantee, a program that awards matching funds to small businesses in North Carolina that receive federal grant funds from the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program.
This matching program has helped many startup companies tackle the challenges of commercializing technologies. Only a few states use similar matching programs to capitalize on available federal funds and promote growth by investing in such companies and their potential. To date, the state of North Carolina has given out around 300 such grants since the beginning of the program.
With its close attention to the components that make innovation strong, North Carolina deliberately cultivates a state-wide innovation ecosystem that builds its reputation as an innovative state.