When we assess North Carolina’s progress and development, some key indicators—economic or otherwise—may be easier to track than others. Jobs created or lost, graduation rates, commuting time: these are metrics we hear often. But how do you quantify something like “innovation”?
As you know, this was a challenge the NC Chamber took on in 2013 when we first developed NC Vision 2030 – A Plan for Accelerating Job Growth and Securing North Carolina’s Future. This plan was our attempt to set achievable and ambitious goals for our state, and we’ve used it ever since to shape our legislative priorities and guide our strategic planning. Working with many of you, we identified four major focus areas that are critical to North Carolina’s future success, and developing a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation is one of those foundational pillars.
Today, there are a number of ways we can track how entrepreneurship and innovation are growing in our state—and the results are encouraging. Last fall’s Vision 2030 progress assessment found that North Carolina rose in the ranks for both patents issued and venture capital funding. High-tech employment is on the rise: WRAL reported this week that job creators in our state are looking to fill more than 20,000 high-tech positions. On top of that, a recent report found that NC startups raised more than $1 billion in funding in 2017, a 36.5 percent increase.
And we hear even more positive news anecdotally. Wilson, NC will soon construct the Wilson Innovation Hub with their Golden LEAF Foundation grant. Davidson College is set to open their own hub for entrepreneurs this summer, partnering the college with startup owners and business leaders to build a more robust entrepreneurial community in their area. And the Startup Stampede in Durham works with new consumer product startups to grow their businesses and develop brand strategy and marketing plans.
Despite this progress, there’s still more to be done. The NC Board of Science, Technology, and Innovation recently released a report measuring the health of North Carolina’s innovation economy as compared to six peer states and the nation as a whole. Interestingly, while the report praises our universities’ research & development programs and highlights the state’s growing population and workforce, it also identifies several areas where North Carolina is lagging behind. It argues that the state’s next big challenges lie in growing research & development in non-university settings, commercializing intellectual property, and strengthening our educational attainment. Using this report’s findings and the goals outlined in Vision 2030, the NC Chamber will continue to prioritize entrepreneurship and innovation as we move into primary season and the next legislative session.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs