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UNC-Chapel Hill's new community space for like-minded innovators gets green light to open

The famous well at UNC-Chapel Hill, with a larger building in the background.
Courtesy of UNC-Chapel Hill

UNC-Chapel Hill will open an innovation hub in downtown Chapel Hill through approval of a lease with Grubb Properties next year.

The university’s Innovate Carolina will provide mentorship, strategic guidance and other resources. This extends help to new start-up companies, students, alumni and faculty.

Chief Innovation officer Michelle Bolas said Innovate Carolina has supported faculty and students for more than a decade through different programs, but this will be the first physical space to unite everything.

“The goal of an innovation hub like we're creating in downtown Chapel Hill is to make it much easier for our university innovators to interact with the industry partners, with the community organizations, and with investors and other kinds of sponsors who are helping them in doing this work,” Bolas said.

Innovate Carolina has been intentional about putting together a starter group of collaborators that are focusing on Global Public Health.

“We have a lot of faculty and students who are trying to solve very tough problems around access to clean water and food insecurity. So we are making space and making sure that we have the expertise and the resources to enable and facilitate it,” Bolas said.

To bring more awareness and visibility, there will be pop-up activities, events, and other kinds of workshops in nearby places until the space is open.

Other surrounding universities such as Duke, North Carolina Central and NC State also have different forms of innovation hubs. Duke partners with American Underground and NC Central supports emerging technologies in biosciences.

“All of the universities in the region are doing this in a different way. And we're learning from them,” Bolas said.

Sharryse Piggott is the American Homefront Project Veterans Reporting Fellow.
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