CIE Shares in Two NC IDEA Grants to Promote Entrepreneurship

Monday, December 21, 2020

The UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is part of two NC IDEA grants to promote and support business startups, particularly among underrepresented groups and those focused on the Blue Economy.
The CIE will collaborate with North Carolina A&T University on a semester-long program focused on marine engineering and information technology. The first cohort will begin classes in January 2021, and applications are being accepted through Jan. 11 from students with a strong interest in discovering business opportunities and innovative solutions to coastal and ocean challenges.  
Diane Durance, CIE director, received a $90,000 matching grant from NC IDEA to begin the program. which involves a partnership with NC A&T and local businesses, which will serve as mentors to the students. NC IDEA is a private foundation that supports entrepreneurs through grants and is working to “broaden the entrepreneurship ecosystem.”
Vince Howe, associate professor of marketing in the Cameron School of Business, and Michael Atkinson, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at NC A&T, are the faculty advisors
“We wanted to focus on the Blue Economy engineering and IT sectors because investors and business accelerators are drawn to those two sectors when it comes to startups,” said Durance. “Because of Wilmington’s coastal location, there is huge potential for the Blue Economy to thrive.”
The center will also participate in a grant-funded program to support minority and women entrepreneurs as they work to move from the idea stage to marketing and attracting investors for their startups. The Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington (NEW) received the one-year, $60,000 grant. Genesis Block, a community collaborative in downtown Wilmington offering co-working space and startup support services, is also part of the partnership.
Collaboration and community engagement are foundations of UNCW’s Strategic Plan.
“As new entrepreneurs move from the ideation stage, they need mentors who can help them build marketing strategy, customer discovery and presentation skills to attract investors,” said Durance. “By bringing diverse entrepreneurs to the table, the NEW initiative will also bring different perspectives and ideas, creating an even more robust entrepreneurship sector in southeastern North Carolina.”
As part of the academic collaboration with NC A&T, UNCW students – mainly those in coastal engineering, marine and environmental sciences, logistics and entrepreneurship – will work in teams with engineering and computer science students from A&T to develop new products and software solutions needed by the Center for Marine Science, NC Ports, environmental agencies and local marine businesses.  
“As a coastal city, Wilmington is an ideal place to grow and study Blue Economy businesses,” said Durance.
-- Tricia Vance