From Lab to Marketplace – A Tale of Duke’s Innovation Ecosystem

On Tuesday, November 19th Duke in DC and Duke’s Office of Licensing and Ventures (OLV) co-hosted a congressional briefing titled, “University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Ecosystems.”

OLV Executive Director Robin Rasor and New Ventures Director Rob Hallford traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak to nearly 50 congressional staff and other stakeholders about research universities’ entrepreneurial environments, and how the federal government plays a role in stoking innovation and local economies. The briefing coincided with “Innovation Month” at Duke and Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Melissa Vetterkind, director of Duke’s Office of Government Relations, said that the Capitol Hill briefing was a great forum to highlight some of the ways Duke and the federal government support our innovative faculty. Vetterkind explained, “There’s always a lot of excitement when a new start-up launches, and this was an opportunity to highlight the certain touchpoints along the innovation pipeline, from the federal investment in research on the front end, to the institutional support to help faculty to cross the “valley of death” and the overall university technology transfer framework created by the Bayh-Dole Act.”

Rasor also discussed the booming sectors within the entrepreneurial space that she is currently observing.  Both medicine and technology have remained a key focus for Duke inventors, however, OLV is now seeing a major explosion in the digital space with new software innovations.  In fact, digital innovations now make up 40% of OLV’s total deals today.

OLV’s Annual Report highlighted Duke’s banner year with 16 new start-ups created, 2 IPOs and $58 million in revenue during FY2019. Both Robin and Rob conveyed their excitement about the trajectory of entrepreneurship at Duke and their forward-looking goals to pioneer innovation in the years ahead.

A common theme that permeated the event was the positive impact that Duke and other universities in the Research Triangle have had on North Carolina’s economy. The vast majority of spin-outs from Duke remain in the Triangle area, with 91% of new start-ups located in NC over the past two years, ultimately driving revenue back into the state’s economy.

Rasor and Hallford affirmed that OLV’s overarching goal is to benefit society by fostering innovation.  Additionally, for the state of North Carolina, OLV aims to create a booming ecosystem that will attract highly skilled faculty, enhance the region and encourage more individuals and companies to stay in the Triangle because it is, “a great place to do business.” When asked what they would like to see more from the federal government, Rasor said that above all else, it is essential for the government to, “continue funding for basic research.”