Eight ways to boost your innovative potential at UNC in 2018

The beginning of the new year is filled with possibilities. What’s new? What’s next? And how can you get the most from your innovative potential? You may have an idea with incredible promise, but how do you put your novel notion into action? Going from idea to innovation isn’t always easy, but here’s the good news: there are a ton of resources to help you – whether you’re dealing with an initial a-ha moment or an entrepreneurial venture you’ve been working on for years.

Read on for a list of eight steps you can take to move your idea to the next level. Some are so quick and simple that you can literally take advantage of them in a few seconds.

If you don’t have the latest information about resources that can help push your innovation ahead, guess what? You’re already falling behind. Lucky for you, valuable information is a simple click, swipe or tap away. Find experts and organizations that provide information, resources and guidance for innovators and entrepreneurs. Then, bookmark their websites. Better yet, sign up for their newsletters and follow them on social media. That way, you don’t have to actively seek the latest information. It pops up in you inbox (or newsfeed) automatically. 

For the UNC community, Innovate Carolina is a team you can connect with to find the latest resources, strategies and tools for pushing your innovative idea to the edge. We’ve created a list of helpful links to get you started on your information search:

innovate.unc.edu: More than 200 resources for Carolina innovators: funding, academic courses, startup programs, competitions and more.
oced.unc.edu: Programs and services from the UNC commercialization team to help bring your inventions, discoveries and technologies to market.

Social Media
Twitter (@innovateunc): All the latest about UNC innovation and entrepreneurship in 280 characters or fewer.
Facebook (@InnovateUNC): UNC innovation stories and happenings shared to your newsfeed.

Email Newsletter: Your weekly dose of innovation stories, news, events and funding opportunities.

When you’re working to bring a new idea to life, time and effort go a long way. But they won’t take you all the way. At some point, you’ll need funding to take your idea to the next step. The question is: Where can you find it – and fast?

If you’re a UNC faculty member, student, alumnus or member of the innovation community at large, make the funding directory on the Innovate Carolina website a place you . You’ll find a large listing of awards, fellowships and investment groups from across the University, North Carolina region and national stage that you can sort by your area of interest and specific funding needs. Example: Are you a UNC undergrad student interested in an on-campus award in the area of business or entrepreneurship? Or a faculty member looking for investment groups that specialize in hi-tech ventures? Or a grad student interested in a fellowship to help you make a real-world impact with your life science research? Check. Check. Check. You’ll find all of these and many other funding opportunities in our directory, including a few you probably never knew existed.

Every great innovation (and innovator) needs the space to grow. Of course, not all innovation spaces are created equal, and what works perfectly for someone else might not be the right fit for you.

Maybe you simply need a space to meet with others. Perhaps you’re looking for a makerspace to build a model or prototype. Or maybe a more formal lab space or an actual incubator program fits the bill. Visit the Innovate Carolina workspaces directory to see what’s available. Whatever kind of space you need – whether it’s on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus or elsewhere – you can start to explore them here.

Do you feel like technology is changing so fast that it’s leaving you behind? Welcome to the modern innovation economy where the speed of technology development outpaces our ability to keep up. The result? We all feel a bit dizzy and disoriented. But successful innovators won’t hide their heads in the sand. They’ll embrace the modern technological boom as a growth opportunity – and that means learning to master new technologies (or at least a few).

Check out this recent video of UNC tech experts who share how you can use augmented and virtual reality, gamification and artificial intelligence to enhance entrepreneurial projects. This news article explains how other UNC innovators are using these technologies – and how you can, too. Find out how members of the UNC community can sign up for a training session with UNC Libraries, which provides resources like the Kenan Science Library Makerspace and virtual reality technologies.

In addition, visit the UNC Information Technology Services website to explore a variety of services that you can take advantage of. For example, UNC’s Adobe Creative Cloud subscription gives you access to a full range of creative desktop apps for digital imaging, design, web, and video. You can also use Lynda.com, which is an online video-training library that has more than 2,400 software, career development, and technology training titles.

Google searches. Emails. Phone calls. There are a ton of ways to explore what’s going on in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship right from your desk. But sometimes, there’s simply no substitute for getting out and attending an event where you can see, hear and interact with today’s top innovators.

And while you’ll have to venture beyond your desk, you won’t have to go too far. Check out the Innovate Carolina events calendar, which includes UNC innovation events, plus others from around the region, state and country. Here’s a few events at UNC to go ahead and add to your calendar now: TEDxUNC, Pearl Hacks and the Innovation Showcase.  

Also, take a few seconds to subscribe to the Innovate Carolina newsletter. You’ll receive a fresh list of innovation-related events in your inbox every week – no searching required.

What’s all the fuss about being a maker all about? Is it just a trend or something with real traction? When it involves innovation and entrepreneurship, it’s clear that being able to use your creative skills to make or design something is essential for bringing ideas to life. And that’s not going to change. Ideas can exist in someone’s mind, stay scribbled on a napkin or remain stored on a hard drive for only so long. At some point, most innovators have to produce an actual product – or at least an early prototype.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, the Be a Maker (BeAM) network of makerspaces allows everyone in the UNC community to do exactly that. After a brief training session or two, you’ll be ready to design and make physical objects for education, research, entrepreneurship and recreation. You can participate in open studios, workshops, hosted classes and group activities. On-campus spaces are equipped with emerging technologies like 3D printers, lasers and electronics as well as wood and metalworking shops. In fact, a brand new UNC makerspace, aptly named Blue, is located inside a student residence hall. Talk about making made convenient.

So, you have the best idea ever, at least in your mind. But how does it stack up against the ideas of other innovators? Is your concept really as unique and compelling as you believe? And maybe more importantly, can you win a cash prize for it?

Visit the Innovate Carolina innovation competitions directory, and find opportunities to compete with others to see just how far your idea can go. Whether you choose to enter a UNC-specific contest or a competition on the regional or national level, you can earn cash prizes, improve your pitching skills and gain greater exposure for your innovation or venture.

For example, looking to get involved in a competition that helps you represent Carolina among the other schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference? Check out the ACC InVenture Prize.

Researchers say that one of the primary characteristics of innovators and entrepreneurs is curiosity. They constantly ask why, remain open to new ideas and always look to learn more. If that sounds a lot like you, what better way could there be to develop your own entrepreneurial mindset and skillset than taking a course on – you guessed it – innovation and entrepreneurship?  

Visit the Innovate Carolina innovation and entrepreneurship course directory to get started. Whether you’re a Carolina student, faculty member, alumnus or member of innovation community at large, you’ll find a variety of avenues and formats for learning: UNC courses, workshops and conferences – plus a wide assortment of regional and national symposia and events. This is the only place you’ll find such a comprehensive collection of these specific learning opportunities.