As we launch into 2021, the CIE may seem quiet – but looks can be deceiving. While our sign is still beckoning on South College Road and our building is still open for tenants and small meetings – the parking lot looks sadly empty.
But we’re still a buzzing hive of activity – and you can find us and all our programs online.
True to our mission to accelerate the creation of entrepreneurial ventures, knowledge-based jobs, and innovative business solutions, we’re engaging and supporting entrepreneurs throughout the region. We’re focused on areas where regional strengths and university expertise converge – to drive new innovations and ventures in education, health and information technologies, coastal and marine sciences, and media production.
We continue to listen to the needs of our entrepreneurs and community and collaborate on programs that benefit women, veterans, creatives, and high school and college students, to increase their opportunities for funding and success.
We’re currently working with more than 120 startup entrepreneurs. They’re primarily in the early stages of business development. Most are pre-revenue and will be seeking outside funding through grants and equity investments to launch and scale.
Here’s what we have on deck for 2021:
- MED Week (Minority Enterprise Development Week) featuring educational and networking events celebrating and supporting minority and women-led businesses in October.
- YEPex (Youth Entrepreneurship Experience) with monthly meet-ups, business innovation competitions, annual summit, and summer day camp to encourage entrepreneurship at the high school level.
- Cucalorus events like 10x10 and monthly fILM meetups. 10x10 matches ten startups with ten filmmakers to create short films in record time. This year, 10x10 will be in April in partnership with Genesis Block and the startups will be minority and women-led ventures.
- 1 Million Cups, the Kaufmann Foundation program that introduces entrepreneurs to their community and ecosystem of support every Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.
- Innov8, a new innovation conference in the planning stages with the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, NHRMC Innovation Team, and other community partners, for fall 2021 to:
- Draw attention to the Cape Fear region as an outstanding business and quality-of-life location for tech and other high value businesses to relocate, start, or grow;
- Introduce tech professionals, CXOs, and entrepreneurs to the region’s unique and note-worthy strengths, successes, and assets; particularly in fintech, healthtech, bluetech, and supporting technologies, such as AI, VR, and 5G; and
- Drive outcomes – more tech startups and traded sector growth companies and more high-paying tech jobs
- All Blue (Alliance for the Blue Economy) to engage regional and local stakeholders to grow a world-class Blue Economy Innovation Hub in Southeast North Carolina (businesses, technologies, and activities contributing to sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and improved livelihoods and jobs) and establish the region’s leadership role in the innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to the challenges in coastal and marine environments.
- UNCW certificate program in Innovation in Healthcare being developed in collaboration with the New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) Innovation Team and the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) to offer career professionals as well as university students the opportunity to develop innovation skill and bring new products and services to market.
- CIE Mentor Program and Accelerator Fund offering team-based mentoring and an opportunity for early-stage ventures to receive up to $5,000 for key milestone-related opportunities. The CIE has a roster of 140 mentors.
To learn more and get in on the action, reach out to us at [email protected]
Diane Durance, MPA, is director of UNC Wilmington's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). The CIE is a resource for the start-up and early-stage business community to help diversify the local economy with innovative solutions. For more information, visit www.uncw.edu/cie.