UNC Charlotte’s newest powerhouse is open for business. The PORTAL building is the latest example of the University’s commitment to foster partnerships with private industry. The facility was designed to stimulate business growth and job creation along with promoting research and innovation.
The four-story, 96,000-square-foot, PORTAL building, which sits on a prominent site at the Tryon Street entrance of the Charlotte Research Institute campus, was formally dedicated on Feb. 28, with a gathering of more than 300 University leaders, governmental officials, business and industry partners and members of the greater community.
“PORTAL provides us an expanded, visible and proximate platform for a variety of activities that will bring our faculty closer to entrepreneurs, business partners and our capacity in technology transfer, and—critically—to place our undergraduate and graduate students in the middle of the University’s role in regional economic development,” stated Chancellor Philip L. Dubois. “As our productivity in research has increased… we realized we would need to, as they say in sports, ‘elevate our game’ beyond what the state could do. Thus, PORTAL was born in concept.”
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, on campus for a business roundtable meeting and the dedication, championed the University’s vision in developing PORTAL. He said the connection between academia and commerce was critical to economic development.
“Great entrepreneurs build businesses,” stated McCrory. “The next Bill Gates could come out of PORTAL, so I applaud this supportive, dynamic partnership.”
PORTAL was built with no state appropriations, noted Dubois.
“We have taken on a long-term obligation funded from the revenues we receive as a result of competing for research contracts and grants,” the chancellor explained.
A marriage of vision and practicality, PORTAL is an acronym for Partnership, Outreach and Research to Accelerate Learning. University officials describe it as a venue where entrepreneurs can collaborate with peers, faculty members and students—harnessing the power of a research university to plan strategies for success in a contemporary setting.
“The Charlotte Research Institute and UNC Charlotte have established long-term relationships with many companies,” said Robert Wilhelm, vice chancellor for research and economic development at UNC Charlotte, North Carolina’s urban research university. “The PORTAL building offers new capacity for research partnerships and access to our students and faculty, a major talent source for the region.”
PORTAL is also the new home of Ventureprise, formerly known as the Ben Craig Center and one of the first university-based business incubators in the nation. Sponsored by UNC Charlotte, Ventureprise offers an incubator and accelerator program to entrepreneurs and early-stage enterprises that is affordable and that features ready-for-business office space, business model development, business growth assistance, coaching and mentoring, relevant education programs and connections to businesses and University resources. It has served 135 companies over the years.
Ventureprise will serve between 20 and 24 resident companies including startups and early stage firms . These companies will benefit from a workspace that leverages University resources and includes quality guidance provided by the experienced staff and proven mentors.
“We’re looking for innovation-driven, pioneering entrepreneurs who have the potential to build national or global markets for their products or services,” said Paul Wetenhall, president of Ventureprise . A number of business partners are located currently on the Charlotte Research Institute campus to pursue research and development partnerships. The PORTAL building also offers additional space for established companies that want a research and development location at UNC Charlotte.
The University’s Technology Transfer Office will also be located in PORTAL. The PORTAL building also provides space for UNC Charlotte student businesses. Student teams will receive expert guidance as they experience starting a business.