The Research Triangle Park

Area Startups Receive Catalysts for Innovation Award

By Aug 26, 2016

RTP Based University/Industry Consortium Awards $250,000 to Two Organizations
Each initiative is focused on impactful work, and is comprised of team members from multiple North Carolina universities and private industry.

In partnership, the Research Triangle Park, Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology & Science (KIETS) at NC State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and TUCASI are pleased to announce the recipients of the inaugural award for the Catalysts for Innovation prize. This multi-organizational collaboration is focused on giving big thinkers the uninterrupted opportunity to work on projects that have the potential to change the world. Of the thirteen proposals submitted, two were selected as winners. These projects convene team members from multiple Triangle universities and the private sector. They also demonstrate a strong sense of collaboration and, if successful, have the potential to greatly enhance the lives of people across North Carolina and the Nation.

The two initiatives selected are:

EcoPRT, Awarded $165,000
As a collaboration between North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, EcoPRT will use the award to seed a new transit solution with the overall goal of establishing RTP as a center for automated transportation research and development. EcoPRT is an ultra-lightweight transit system with autonomous vehicles that will transport groups of passengers. The project is focused on connectivity within RTP and region, building on the support previously garnered from NCDOT and NC State.

The Medical Innovators Collaborative (The MEDIC), Awarded $85,000
The Medical Innovators Collaborative (MEDIC) is a veteran-founded nonprofit spinout of the UNC & NC State Biomedical Engineering Department. MEDIC serves to support the innovation lifecycle and community by providing asset assessment and development, innovation training, industry relevant professional seminars, student internships, and an IP Safe Haven. We are an open and collaborative space bringing together innovators and entrepreneurs including academics, caregivers, industry professionals, students, and veterans. At The Frontier, MEDIC will host training sessions, networking events, and have a makerspace at BunkerLabs RDU, which is a strategic partner of the program which provides educational programming to help military veterans start and grow businesses.

In addition to funding, awardees have the opportunity to work out of a specially designed space at The Frontier in Research Triangle Park. As the Triangle’s central meeting point, The Frontier will provide teams the opportunity to not only have office space, but to also become involved in the thriving community at The Frontier and greater RTP. Opened in 2015, The Frontier is an open innovation community that provides free co-working opportunities, affordable offices, and event space in order to help push big ideas forward. This convergent atmosphere seeks to promote collaboration between employees of RTP companies, universities, startups and individuals.

“Through this partnership, RTP is excited to see what happens when we bring diverse groups of people together focused on complex projects in one place,” says Mason Ailstock, COO of the Research Triangle Park. “Our organization is committed to creating places at the Park Center development that embody the spirit of this contest in physical form. This is a great way for us to test and learn from those ideas while helping push cutting-edge research forward.”

The teams were selected by a panel of representatives from each of the founding organizations. To be eligible to win the award, project submittals were required to connect participants from two or more Triangle universities, and were given additional consideration if they were also able to achieve any of the following:  

  • Address issues that apply to North Carolina, the nation and the world.
  • Ensure dissemination and public discussion of the project outputs.
  • Have potential long-term impacts.
  • Leverage additional resources and funding.

Both EcoPRT and The MEDIC exceeded these expectations. Each team will have two years to work on their projects, communicate their findings and take action. It is the hope of the committee that each project will result in valuable insights that can be used to shape the future of RTP. Additionally, it is the hope of the committee that this opportunity will give the winners the ability to develop and grow their specific project objectives with an aim towards scalability and sustainability once the initial support period has concluded.

“The Research Triangle Park was founded with the mission of supporting North Carolina’s universities, creating meaningful work, and supporting all the people of the state,” says Ailstock. “As this initiative continues to grow and develop, it is my belief that the Catalyst for Innovation program will continue to nurture novel ideas in the years to come.”

To celebrate the award winners, we invite the public to join us for a celebration in conjunction with RTP Happy Hour at The Frontier on September 29th at 4:00pm. Remarks and a toast will take place in the Atrium.

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