Ramping up the impact of N.C. Research Campus

November 08, 2012

Mike Todd


Michael Todd believes the N.C. Research Campus has the potential to make a big, positive impact on human health and key global issues.

He will guide the UNC System’s role in those efforts as executive director. It is the university system’s first administrative role at the 350-acre biotech hub in Kannapolis.

Todd will handle everyday operational issues, juggle the budget and handle legislative relations while fostering collaboration between the UNC System universities on campus and private partners such as General Mills Inc. and Monsanto Co.

“For me personally, it’s an ideal synthesis of science and public service,” he says of the campus.

Todd recently spoke with the Charlotte Business Journal about UNC’s role at the research campus. Following are edited excerpts.

What does the UNC System bring to the research campus?

I feel as if the university research element is in some ways the core critical mass of the campus. We provide a certain gravity. Despite the beautiful buildings and the state-of-the-art equipment, in the scientific fields you want legitimacy born out of publications and a proven track record. I think that’s what our folks bring.

You’re bringing these world-class reputations and this track record to campus. That gives us a boost, rather than waiting for it to develop organically over years. It jump-starts things.

Why is the research happening here so important?

The impact on human health. What we’re looking at here will have implications for the future of not just local, state, national, but global health, as evidenced by the international research currently ongoing. We’ve made significant findings and breakthroughs, in areas such as obesity, diabetes, certain types of cancer.

We’re looking at some of the key problems. We are attacking large global issues with a model that is, I believe, the future of these public-private partnerships.

Does the research campus’ collaborative focus give you an advantage when it comes to attracting research funding?

Most definitely. As federal research dollars get tighter, many of the other sources of grant funding are looking specifically for a collaborative research model. That’s what we do here. That will only increase as we develop a track record and campus reputation for excellence. We’re looking to further our campus reputation.

Will UNC’s presence here grow in the future?

We have been growing. We’ve not yet reached the fully envisioned state appropriation (of $29.5 million annually). That’s perfectly understandable, given the (economic) situation of the last few years.

What we do give the state, I believe, is an incredible bang for the buck spent. What we’re able to accomplish here, the grant funding that we’ve been able to bring to campus, the publications that our faculty and staff generate are at very healthy levels.

What are the biggest challenges for the N.C. Research Campus right now?

I think telling our story — what’s here, what’s so great about it and why additional partners would want to be here. I think we’ve got some great historic successes we can point to.

We’ve got great potential. But I think we can do an even better job of telling the story.

Jennifer Thomas covers retail, health care and education for the Charlotte Business Journal.

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