InnovateNC: A Cross-City Learning Collaborative

Innovation is the modern economy’s fuel. As the primary source of new technologies, products, services, and practices that yield value, innovation is what creates new industries, makes existing ones globally competitive, and sustains economic growth and improved societal well-being. To ensure our state’s future competitiveness and economic prosperity, we must increase our state’s overall innovation capacity well beyond the Triangle and Charlotte. To encourage innovation capacity growth, the Institute for Emerging Issues and nine other statewide Partners have launched InnovateNC, an intensive two-year, cross-city learning collaborative supporting five North Carolina communities — Asheville, Greensboro, Pembroke, Wilson, Wilmington and the Carolina Coast—as they expand their innovation economies. The initiative also serves as a model for other communities, publicly disseminating products, processes, and tools for those interested in the same goal.

InnovateNC Community Innovation Asset Map (New and Available for Download!)

Thanks to the generous support of the Institute for Emerging Issues, RTI International, the NC Department of Commerce’s Board of Science, Technology & Innovation, and all of the InnovateNC partners, the InnovateNC Community Innovation Asset Map is being offered to communities as a FREE download during its initial launch. Additional tools are planned for release by the end of 2017 at The Asset Map is a first-of-its-kind, turnkey tool for communities of all sizes, seeking to enhance their innovation ecosystems, and is a community’s first step for developing a concrete roadmap to grow their innovation economy meaningfully.



Quick Links

(Editable worksheets are provided below)

Worksheet 1: Demographic and Socioeconomic Community Profile
Worksheet 2: Workforce Assets 
Worksheet 3: Programs for Youth
Worksheet 4: Workforce Training Programs
Worksheet 5: Apprenticeship Programs
Worksheet 6: Buildings and Other Innovation Zones
Worksheet 7: Infrastructure Assets
Worksheet 8: Mentorship Assets
Worksheet 9: Financial Assets
Worksheet 10: Economic Assets
Worksheet 11: Support Services
Worksheet 12: Associations, Networks, Programs, Events
Worksheet 13: Tracking Outcomes
Worksheet 14: Local and Regional Government Policies
Worksheet 15: Champions
Worksheet 16: Media
Worksheet 17: Additional Assets


A media kit is available for download below.

Media Kit




About Us

In February 2015, the Emerging Issues Forum, Innovation Reconstructed, attracted more than 1,000 innovation experts, advocates, and entrepreneurs from across the state and around the world to explore how North Carolina companies and communities will innovate to compete in an era of global connections, transformative technology, and constant change.

We learned that North Carolina is mired mid-pack among the nation’s states in overall innovation capacity and effectiveness. A recent Institute for Emerging Issues study, using SAS Visual Analytics software, found that North Carolina sits well below the top quartile of states and even trails the U.S. average on key innovation indicators, including output and compensation. Current trend lines indicate that North Carolina will fail to reach the top quartile unless we involve many more people in more of our cities in a broad innovation turn-around effort through which we reconstruct our innovation model and expand innovation capacity. North Carolina’s roster of leading innovation cities must expand beyond the Triangle and Charlotte.


We know that North Carolina cities beyond Raleigh, Durham, and Charlotte are seeking to bolster their innovation capacity by adopting the new innovation district model. However, some struggle to develop the scale and complexity needed to foster positive short-term outcomes and create the conditions required for long-term innovation success.

To assist these efforts, the Institute for Emerging Issues at NC State University and nine other powerful public, private, and nonprofit entities have partnered to launch InnovateNC, an intensive two-year cross-city collaborative that supports five North Carolina communities – Asheville, Greensboro, Pembroke, Wilson, Wilmington and the Carolina Coast – as they make major gains in expanding their innovation economies.


Goals and Benefits of InnovateNC

InnovateNC aims to enhance innovation-related economic development and to advance critical new knowledge related to that goal. As a result, InnovateNC will:

  1. Increase innovation capacity, activity and connectivity;
  2. Broaden the demographic and sectoral diversity of those engaged in the innovation economy;
  3. Increase collaborative cross-city learning and partnerships; and
  4. Increase visibility and financial support for innovation district efforts.
  • InnovateNC will accomplish these objectives by providing the following benefits (valued at more than $250,000) to each InnovateNC city:
  • Information about, and preparation to take advantage of, existing and newly proposed innovation programs at the state and national level;
  • Guided development of a coherent strategic plan to accelerate inclusionary innovation;
  • Valuable new relationships and connections via in-person cross-city convenings and shared web platforms;
  • Data-driven asset mapping and gap analysis of the existing local innovation ecosystem and measurements of progress over time;
  • Extensive technical assistance to advance local projects while building the base for a longer-term talent development pipeline;
  • Access to extensive best practice resources; and
  • Substantial exposure through storytelling programming.

To learn more about InnovateNC, click here.

The Partners thank and acknowledge the Research Triangle Foundation and the Kenan Creative Collaboratory for their financial support to launch InnovateNC. The Kenan Creative Collaboratory is an initiative of the four Kenan Institutes and their host institutions: Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise (UNC-Chapel Hill), William R. Kenan Jr. Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science (NC State University), Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts (UNC School of the Arts), and Kenan Institute for Ethics (Duke University).

For questions about InnovateNC contact InnovateNC lead Sarah Langer Hall with the Institute for Emerging Issues at 919-513-2800 or

We are grateful to our partners for their support of InnovateNC:

Organizing Partner: Institute for Emerging Issues

Tools & Reports | Media about InnovateNC | Other relevant articles


We’ve received great media coverage throughout North Carolina for InnovateNC, a key 2015 Post-Forum initiative to expand our state’s innovation strength. A sampling of coverage is below:

Latest Media:

Selection of Participating Communities (announced 9-4-2015):

Initial Announcement and RFP Release:

Other Relevant Articles