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UNCP gets grant to foster entrepreneurship


The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) has awarded a $25,700 Lemelson Foundation grant to UNC Pembroke’s entrepreneurship programs. 

The course and program grant will help UNCP and its Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship develop outreach programs. It will also support UNCP’s Biotechnology Research and Training Center, located in the Regional Center for Economic, Community and Professional Development at COMtech.

The grant will help establish a course on invention and innovation for UNCP students who want to develop new products and new technologies. It will also be used to encourage students to become involved in the entrepreneurship opportunities at the university.

The Lemelson grant will also support an outreach program for local entrepreneurs and inventors as well as support research at UNCP’s Biotechnology Center, led by Dr. Len Holmes and Dr. Ben Bahr. An incubator will be purchased for Dr. Holmes’ agricultural research projects. A prior Lemelson grant purchased a microscope and camera. Funds from the grant will also buy supplies for UNCP’s honeybee research.

The Lemelson grant is available to schools that are member institutions of NCIIA, which promotes invention and innovation. UNCP has been a member of the alliance since 2009 and was awarded an $8,000 planning grant for the Thomas Center in 2010. 

The grant was written by Dr. Michael Menefee, UNCP’s Thomas Family Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship. The university offers four entrepreneurship programs: an undergraduate certificate available to students in any major, a minor in entrepreneurship, a concentration for business majors and an entrepreneurship track in the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

 “It is exceedingly rare for a school to get an NCIIA grant in its first year of membership and very difficult to follow that grant with another grant the next year,” Dr. Menefee said. “This is prestigious grant, and we’re very excited to build on our entrepreneurship programs.

“The competition for an NCIIA grant is great, and we feel very fortunate to receive the two grants from them,” he said. “Only 10 schools received a (Lemelson) course and programs grant for this year so far, and only 26 schools received grants in 2010. The only other North Carolina university to receive the NCIIA course and programs grant was Wake Forest University.” 

Other universities receiving grants in 2010 and 2011 include Johns Hopkins University, Cornell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Louisiana State, Ohio State, Maryland, Michigan State, Penn State and Northwestern.

NCIIA grants are funded by the Lemelson Foundation, established  in 1993 by inventor Jerome Lemelson and his family.  He was one of the most prolific inventors of the 20th century with 605 patents; a wing of the Smithsonian is named after him. 

For more information on entrepreneurship programs at UNCP, please contact Dr. Menefee at the Thomas Center at 910.775.4208 or email