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UNC Chapel Hill Kicks Off Research Venture Fund

The 'Old Well' UNC-Chapel HIll
Caroline Culler

The UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees has moved forward with plans to create its own venture fund for start-ups.

The Carolina Research Venture Fund will begin with $5 million, from investment earnings on non-state funds.

UNC-Chapel Hill Trustee Sallie Shuping-Russell says they had to step up because the industry is not flowing with dollars right now.

“You know it’s literally, turn the lights on for the companies, and that money is often times not there.  So this fund is actually going to be taking an equity interest in the new companies, just as a venture capital firm would," said Shuping-Russell.

To help create even a larger community of capital, the Carolina Research Venture Fund will have an advisory board made up of national venture capital funds.

Shuping-Russell is Managing Director at the asset management company, BlackRock.  She says Chapel Hill is one of the top 10 research institutions in the country, but needed help securing funding for research start-ups.

“And so we’re generating a huge amount of research off this campus and if you take all of that together we have a very fertile environment for company spin-out.  And what we needed to do is get some capital to help make it happen," said Shuping-Russell.

In a statement, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt said it is time to invest and accelerate the growth of "bright ideas" on campus, early on.

"As the Carolina Research Venture Fund proves its success, we will continue to invest in and energize its growth with additional capital," said Folt.

Start-up grants from the fund would likely be for small amounts, like $100,000.

Last week, Governor Pat McCrory addressed the UNC Board of Governors, pitching funding models to help innovators.  One plan is to create a $10 million dollar-per-year program to move young companies to the marketplace.

Leoneda Inge is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Leoneda has been a radio journalist for more than 30 years, spending most of her career at WUNC as the Race and Southern Culture reporter. Leoneda’s work includes stories of race, slavery, memory and monuments. She has won "Gracie" awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and several awards from the Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA). In 2017, Leoneda was named "Journalist of Distinction" by the National Association of Black Journalists.
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