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An Unrivaled Partnership: Collaborating for North Carolina

NC State University and UNC Seals

To NC State Faculty, Staff and Students,

On January 26 all eyes focused on the basketball court; meanwhile, another meeting took place in Raleigh between North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, one with positive impact that reaches far beyond our campuses.

For the first time in history, the Board of Trustees for both universities convened a joint meeting hosted by NC State for the purpose of collaborating to help tackle our state’s most pressing challenges. Leaders from both universities met to review current partnerships between the schools and set a path forward for new ventures aimed at forging a stronger North Carolina.

NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill both bring to the table a wealth of individual and complementary strengths in a broad and varied range of academic fields, research disciplines and citizen services – as well as in economic development.

Both universities produce career-ready graduates – the next generation of entrepreneurs – capable of adapting to the changing needs of the economy and providing advanced training to the existing workforce. Both universities transfer knowledge and discoveries through published research, direct licensing of technologies, nurturing and growing start-up companies, and support for existing enterprises. And NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill create economic clusters around their areas of research excellence, attract university/industry centers and consortia, and work with the statewide economic development community on recruiting new industry to the state.

Combined, these strengths transform our state’s leading research universities into a problem-solving, knowledge-and job-creation powerhouse.

Going forward, we’ve identified three new areas of collaboration centered on research – areas deemed critical by the UNC system’s draft strategic plan for 2013-18.

One is pharmacoengineering, which is the development of materials and technologies to improve the delivery of therapeutic and diagnostic agents. This is an important need in the pharmaceutical industry. Efforts here can lead to new generations of drugs, drug-delivery systems, and new ways to assess drug safety and efficacy.

A second is data science, what is known today as “big data.” How do you effectively and efficiently manage the staggering amount of data available to solve problems? Our two universities, working together with partners in Research Triangle Park, can reinforce North Carolina as the national leader in this emerging field.

Finally, we can lead in systems biology, where we can use our strengths in life sciences, medicine, statistics and computational sciences to make biotechnology and pharmaceutical advances.

Most understand by now that there is no “silver bullet” academic discipline that can solve our most pressing challenges; solutions come from cross-disciplinary work that brings together experts in different fields, like engineers with medical doctors, mathematicians with biologists or genomicists with sociologists.

Take, for instance, our joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, where NC State engineers and UNC scientists and medical personnel combine forces to create the knowledge, tools and technologies to improve health care for our citizens.

In fact, if you combine the research expenditures of our two universities, you’d have the second-largest university research enterprise in the United States – behind only Johns Hopkins University.

Our collaboration is strong, but we are committed to make it stronger for the benefit of North Carolina and all its citizens. Two old rivals are proving that no dividing line is stronger than the greater good.


Randy Woodson
NC State University