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Education
Jul 29, 2020

The CIE: Distanced, Not Disengaged

Sponsored Content provided by Heather McWhorter - Director, UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Summer is often a more relaxed time of year for the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship – but, not this summer. We’re social distancing and out of the public eye with networking events, and our parking lot at 803 South College Road is mostly empty, but we’re busier than ever.
 
We’re going strong with online programs, virtual meetings, and initiatives-in-progress.
 
One example…the transition of our regional 1 Million Cups to a virtual format. As a new weekly networking event launched in February, it has been attracting about 30 participants a week since going online in March. Through the end of September, our 1 Million Cups will feature the recently announced winners of Coastal Entrepreneur Awards.
 
Based on the notion that entrepreneurs discover solutions and engage with their communities over a million cups of coffee, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation developed 1 Million Cups in 2012 – a free program to educate, engage and inspire entrepreneurs. Through the power of volunteers, 1 Million Cups has grown to more than 160 communities. The CIE is home base for our region and volunteers from the Coalition of Small Business Resource Organizations plan and host the weekly event.
 
We’ve also jumped on board with training to facilitate District C, a new experiential education program for high school and college students. Behind District C is the belief that if we want to teach students how to work in teams to solve complex business problems, we need to give them more opportunities to do that. Stay tuned for more news on District C.
 
The CIE entrepreneurs have had notable successes this summer, too, including ventures recognized by NC IDEA Foundation through their grant programs. NC IDEA fosters economic development in North Carolina by supporting entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial support organizations – and is the largest source of grant funding for early stage ventures. Earlier this summer, Wilmington-based ventures, MyKinfo and Survei, received micro grants; Electronic Lab Logs won a $50,000 seed grant. Major conferences went online, with OpiAID presenting virtually and receiving investor interest at the CED Venture Summit, and Swell Systems presenting at Dig South, a top forum out of Charleston.
 
The inaugural NC Bioneer Venture Challenge for biotech startups survived the early months of the pandemic and continued with mentoring and judging. Awards were announced in May. Winners included Isosceles Pharmaceuticals, Accugenomics, Electronic Lab Logs, and IndiOmics.
 
High school students forged ahead with the Chancellor’s High School Innovation Competition that culminated in the first-ever virtual Youth Summit with 100 attendees, keynotes, and student pitches. Check out the virtual YEPex Youth Summit and Chancellor's High School Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition. Winners represented high schools in New Hanover, Onslow, and Pender counties.
 
The CIE also has active work groups focused on new initiatives to advance the Creative Economy, regional innovation and technology sectors, and the Blue Economy. The Creative Economy group seeks to strengthen SENC’s creative economy and fuel our diverse arts and cultural community. The Blue Economy group is working to grow our global reputation as a robust science and technology hub for ocean and coastal innovations.
 
We’re welcoming new entrepreneurs, mentors, and community supporters to all our programs.
 
 
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.

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