City council gets update on UNCW's innovation center

Updated: Apr. 3, 2017 at 12:41 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The number of companies staying local and the self-sustainability of the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) were of keen interest to the members of the Wilmington City Council after a presentation by university representatives Monday morning.

CIE Director Diane Durance gave council members an update on the progress of the center after the council's agenda meeting.

"Across the U.S., it costs about $63,000 to create a new job," Durance said. "And when it's a tech job it costs up to $180,000. So what we're accomplishing in Wilmington in creating companies and jobs is very efficient. We're doing a lot with very little. None of the funding we received is going to waste."

According to Durance, the CIE is incubating about 75 companies and plans more than about 100 events a year.

The city council has been making $70,000 annual commitments to the center. The center costs about $500,000 a year to run.

University officials were asked about the possibility of the center becoming self sustainable.

Equity in one of the startups at the CIE could be a bonanza for the center. Lapetus Life Event Solutions is in the process of raising more than $5 million in funding.

UNCW Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli also pointed to naming rights to the center as a source of funds.

"At my previous institution, I got an insurance company to name a center for $3 million," Satarelli said. "So if I could get $3 million for someone to name the center that would throw out four of five percent a year. That would be enough money to really replenish the kitty going forward substantially."

As far as the number of businesses and the jobs staying in Wilmington as a result of the CIE, officials said they will be able to give council an accurate number once the fiscal year ends on June 30.

One of the programs the CIE is involved in is Fish 2.0, a global business competition that connects sustainable seafood and aquacultural ventures with investors around the world.

CIE hosted a three-day Fish 2.0 workshop in March and plans to hold an annual program to build seafood economy in the state.

"What is really starting to build, and part of it is from the Fish 2.0 efforts and the strength of the university, is that we are really starting to get resources lined up to create 100 new small business and 1000 jobs over the next three years in our seafood supply chain and in coastal restoration work," Durance said

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