North Carolina Universities Join Together to Create More Startups and Quality Jobs

When the White House launched the Startup America initiative less than 90 days ago, the President issued a call to action to the private sector, challenging leaders of companies, universities, and foundations to dramatically accelerate the success of America’s high-growth entrepreneurs.

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation was among the first to answer this call to action, with its commitment to a five-year, five-region expansion of Blackstone LaunchPad, a successful program that transforms university career centers to encourage entrepreneurship as a career path for undergrads, graduate students, and alumni. 

Today, I’ll be traveling to Durham, North Carolina to help celebrate the launch of the Blackstone Foundation’s latest commitment to high-growth entrepreneurship as an engine of job creation and economic development.  The new Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network represents a remarkable collaboration among four great universities -- Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – all joining together to identify and accelerate the highest-potential startups in the Research Triangle Park region.

This $3.6 million program will recruit a group of 15 highly successful “master entrepreneurs” committed to advising 30 promising startup teams from the university ecosystem every year, for a total of 150 startups over the next five years.  UNC Chapel Hill estimates that this model could more than double the number of startups launching out of the region, dramatically increasing their success rate and creating more than 17,000 net new jobs over the next decade.

This is an admirable example of top university leaders taking concrete measures to turn their institutions into even more powerful engines of innovation and entrepreneurship.  Building a bridge between the lab and the marketplace, entrepreneurs enable universities to generate positive impact at every level – from regionally vital job creation to globally significant breakthroughs in biotech, cleantech, and other 21st century technologies.

The Federal government also has a fundamental role to play, by investing $148 billion each year in research and development.  The Obama Administration will continue to champion and protect this essential investment in our Nation’s future, while also pursuing the most effective ways to bring research breakthroughs from the lab to the marketplace.  For example, as a part of the Startup America initiative, five Federal agencies have joined forces to fund new regional “proof of concept centers” that accelerate green technology innovation and entrepreneurship.  (Note that letters of intent for this i6 Green Challenge are due by May 2.)

Meanwhile, North Carolina is already taking the lead in fostering high-impact regional collaborations.  I look forward to joining Governor Beverly Perdue, Senator Kay Hagan, Blackstone Group co-founder Stephen Schwarzman, UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp, and other university leaders to celebrate the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network, and to think about how other universities, foundations, and entrepreneurs might adapt such models to other regions of the country.

Ginger Lew is a Senior Counselor on the White House National Economic Council

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