Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

CIE News

New Directions for the CIE: Marine Science, Technology, and Media Production

by Nikki Kroushl on February 4, 2017

Diane Durance

Jeff Janowski/UNCW

Since her first day at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in June, director Diane Durance has worked to establish a concrete direction for the CIE in the near and far future: a set of goals to move toward and focus on. As 2017 opens into a new year of possibilities, she discusses that direction—or, more accurately, three directions.

Marine Science

Since Wilmington is a coastal city and UNCW's marine science and biology programs are some of the most robust in the country, developing entrepreneurial ventures in these areas is an obvious path to take. The biggest marine entrepreneurship initiative that CIE and UNCW pursue this year is Fish 2.0, a year-long program designed to prepare entrepreneurs in aquaculture and sustainable fisheries to attract funding for their ventures. The first part of that is a workshop from March 15th to 17th for anyone in the twelve-state southeastern region with a venture involved in the supply chain related to shellfish. Wilmington will host regional finals, the winners going on to compete at Stanford University in front of international investors in November.

“Fish 2.0 will help galvanize everyone that's involved with aquaculture and sustainable fisheries and also position ourselves, here at the university and in southeastern North Carolina, in a leadership role” in the development of a sustainable seafood industry, Durance says.


The CIE has always been enthusiastic about technological ventures, from Mack Coyle's portable solar generators to Lapetus Solutions's work in biometrics. Specifically in 2017 we will focus on educational technology (edtech) and healthcare technology. In December, we partnered with tekMountain to send Sarah Ritter of Turnip Learning and Dr. Debbie Powell of Uni-SPIRE to the NY EdTech Week Conference

“We want to do more to connect our entrepreneurs with their industry and with industry experts,” Durance says of their trip.

Media Production

“There's a group here that would like to see Wilmington as an international gathering place for documentary filmmaking and production,” Durance says. Four current CIE tenants are working on documentaries, and Dan Brawley of the internationally recognized film festival Cucalorus has built a residency program that brings documentarians to Wilmington and provides them with housing and production-related resources. The program supports emerging filmmakers who have new projects, and the most successful visitors have been young British filmmakers making documentaries about Wilmington. North Carolina, too, is a recent documentary hot spot, hosting the nation's top documentary film festival in Durham each year.

“Documentary production has exploded over the last twenty years,” says Brawley. “Cucalorus has been cultivating these voices for 23 years. We have the film festival, the residency program, our grant program which funds projects all over the state, and our fiscal sponsorship. It’s important to cultivate a healthy film ecosystem in general—it lifts all boats if we can generate some new activity in documentary and TV commercial production.”

TV commercials are the second prong of the film revitalization approach. “They’re lean,” Brawley notes, and valuable because of it. “They shoot for a few days, the companies spend about a million dollars, and they give people new to the business a chance to gain some experience.”

At the moment the CIE is working with local film leaders, including Brawley and other Cucalorus key figures, to assess how Wilmington can build its asset base and supply chain so that all the talent necessary is present here. Such goals involve pulling in students from the local university and community colleges “who can fill roles in companies doing commercial advertising as well as documentaries,” Durance says.

Of course, Durance adds, “we'll continue to do all the other things we've been doing”—meaning the educational programs and workshops and the day-to-day resources that tenants, members, and community members have come to expect from us here at the CIE.

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