Special Collections Research Center
Centennial Campus Documentation Project
TRANSCRIPT—Interview with David Winwood
CM: Thanks for agreeing to speak with me. I just wanted to begin by asking you a little bit about your background and how you came to be Director of Centennial Campus.
DW: Okay. I have a background of working at NC State for several years—since about 1998 in a couple of different capacities, but initially in technology transfer. In that capacity, I worked pretty closely with my predecessors in this office: Claude McKinney, Dick Daugherty, Bob Geolas, several others. And coordinated pretty closely with them in terms of the university’s interaction with companies, how they’re being recruited or to whom we are licensing university technologies. I left NC State for a couple years in 2002. Came back to be Director of Centennial Campus, where the role was very clearly defined as company recruiting and retention and building the Centennial Campus community. Since that time, and last year, I have added the technology transfer portfolio into my area of responsibility, and that has been a direction that has been considered for many years at NC State. The synergies that are possible and likely between Centennial Campus Partnership office and the Technology Transfer office are very evident. If you’d like me to expand on that a little bit—why I think it’s a good idea. . .
DW: So at the Centennial Campus Partnership office, our role and responsibilities go towards using the intellectual assets assembled on this campus, be it physical assets such as equipment, other infrastructure, or personnel assets—the people, the students, faculty, and so on who work here. Using those intellectual assets to attract corporate and government partners from the outside world to locate on this campus and to work alongside university employees and students and faculty and so on. So that’s the pull into this campus based on our intellectual assets. The Technology Transfer office is charged with managing NC State’s intellectual property assets, and making sure they are available for use by partners in the outside, commercial world. So, very often, what happens is that we’re talking to the same companies from Centennial Campus to try and attract them to this campus because our intellectual assets, and the Tech Transfer office is using and managing our intellectual assets to license them out to often a similar set of companies. So the great push-pull relationship—very synergistic—is in existence there.
CM: And I wanted to touch on the mixed nature of Centennial Campus. What do you think makes for a good corporate or government partnership?
DW: There are so many different flavors of that, and many of them are good. I don’t know which is best, by any means. But those companies recognize that their presence here allows them access to a variety of different assets or resources. So we have both start-up companies on this campus who are very young and cash-poor typically, and we have some mid-sized companies, and we have actually some small subsidiary groups of very large multinational corporations. And for all of those groups, one attractive feature is their ability to interact and use state of the art equipment on this campus. A start-up company wouldn’t be able to afford to get into an investment of the magnitude needed to buy the equipment, but we have very user-friendly agreements that allow them to do that. Also with large corporations, it might make sense for them to have access to this piece of equipment two days a year. Well, this is an easy way for them to do it, to be here and so on. That’s just the physical assets but I think more fundamental is the availability and access to leading edge faculty researchers and students and postdocs who are really creating the next frontier or pushing the next frontier in a particular area of interest. To be able to mingle and just literally walk across the hallway in many cases and chat and exchange points of view on conversations that are relevant to a particular problem for the day really are beneficial.
CM: I made reference to an interview you did earlier for Creative Services. In that interview, you said that “We have to show to our industrial and government partners that what we’re doing here is relevant to their needs, to society needs.” How does Centennial Campus do that?
DW: I think NC State has a history of that type of interaction. It’s part of our history as a land grant institution. We’ve always been close to what is needed by the state’s industries—textiles in years gone by, and once again textiles in the areas in which it is continuing to flourish. And agriculture. So this is sort of in our DNA, if you will, as a university. This is how we interact. Fundamental research is certainly a core part of what we do. “Basic research” some people call it, but “fundamental research” more properly captures what we mean by that. But there’s a realization that ultimately society benefits only if those inventions and innovations are introduced by corporate partners, sometimes by government partners, for the common good. And the way that that happens is by these types of interactions or by the university licensing its innovations to those companies. So those companies can then take them and bring good to society as a whole by—whether it’s improved foodstuffs, whether it’s a safer food security line, whether it’s a new medicine perhaps, textiles that are flame-retardant, you name it, the list goes on and on. We have so many examples. And a lot of that happened on this campus: those very close interactions where our research community is very much aware of where this innovation might lead in terms of how it could benefit society. It’s good and fundamental that universities create new knowledge but sometimes there’s a between creating it and realizing where it can go if applied appropriately and that’s where we fit, I think.
CM: What do you see as being unique about Centennial Campus as distinct from, for example, other university research parks?
DW: We’re one of very few—we don’t call ourselves a research park, which is maybe a minor thing. We are a campus, and that’s a minor point but it’s a very important point. And I’d expand that further by saying that unlike most of the other university-related research parks in the US, we are actually a part of NC State University. Many of our colleagues in similar settings are actually managed as a subsidiary of the university. They’re managed by a board of directors or a foundation or whatever. This campus is managed by NC State University, period. Not a foundation. Not an outside board of directors. I answer to two vice chancellors and all the way up through the chancellor’s ranks. So this is part of NC State. And that really probably separates us, at one level, from a lot of other campuses in terms of how we’re administered and managed. The other requirement that we have that only a couple of other campuses of this nature have in place is that to be on this campus as a non-university entity—so a corporate or government partner—you have to demonstrate a partnership interaction with a university unit. We’re not in the real estate business, even though we develop real estate. What we develop is partnerships, which require a place in which they can flourish. That is the real estate portion.
CM: In the past, you’ve also mentioned the need to balance environmental sustainability with traditional business sustainability. Do you see there being a tension between those two things and, if so, how do you resolve that?
DW: I think there’s always inevitably going to be some tension there, but I think that increasingly if you look at the realities of the world around us, industry realizes that sustainability on an environmental level is a business asset for them. So there’s a real benefit to be gained by businesses buying into the business, if you will, of sustainability. And so new building designs and construction methods that are being implemented here on campus are really trying to sort of push the edges and use as user friendly or environmentally friendly techniques and technologies as possible. Certainly there are other folks on campus who could talk to you in a more informed manner about how we’ve done that but, you know, when you’re looking at stormwater runoff, when you’re looking at minimal disruption of foliage and so on, as you’re constructing spaces, we’ve really tried to lead the way in that regard.
CM: What are some of the important projects and initiatives you’re working on now?
DW: Well, obviously, the third phase of the College of Engineering’s building relocation is quite well underway. We just got notice of approval of the funding for that building in the budget just this week. So that’ll be a very major addition to the engineering complex at the north end of the Oval. We also are hopeful that we’ll be able to locate a library and then a town center at the opposite end of the Oval to really begin to give some sense of place to Centennial Campus, which will really have as a main street the Oval, if you’re familiar with where that location is—which will have the academic core at the northern end, the engineering complex, which has 6,000 students. And as you wander down towards the end of that Oval, you’ll be greeted by a library, a significant building, and we hope the Institute for Emerging Issues building, and then a town center, where there’ll be a mixture of some retail presence where you could go and feel you’re in a small-town community. So that’s something that is, it’s long term in the sense that it’s not going to happen this weekend, but it’s short term in the sense of an institutional time frame.
CM: So, places to eat, places to live . . .
DW: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And we already have some residential development on campus that over the next several years, there are plans to develop additional residential spaces, some of which may be private sector as the existing ones are, some of which may be student or married housing of some description. Right now the university doesn’t need to tap into that capacity. In the not too distant future, the housing folks certainly know that this is a possibility.
CM: Are there any partnership success stories that stand out for you?
DW: I think that our most recent recruit—which is not actually physically completely here on campus yet—is one of the biggest coups, if you will, that we have been able to pull off. It was a great collaborative effort the Centennial Campus partnership office, numerous colleges, and Wake County Economic Development, and the North Carolina Department of Commerce. After about an eighteen-month recruiting process, we were able to land MeadWestvaco, who decided to establish a brand-new center for packaging innovation on this campus. This is a 200- or 250-job influx. These are new jobs—high, high-paying jobs in technology sector. The nice thing about that is, well, it’s nice to get 200 high-paying jobs de novo in a county and on this campus. But the fact is that, as we see things right now, MeadWestvaco is already talking to six colleges about partnerships and interactions. They hit so many areas—a multi-disciplinary innovation group—and so they have a lot of places they’ll be touching across the university, not limited to colleges that have a presence on this campus but across the NC State environment.
CM: And in a general way, where do you see Centennial Campus being in its evolution?
DW: How far along are we?
DW: You can look at that in very easy sort of mathematical terms. I think the master plan calls for somewhere close to 9,500,000 or 10,000,000 square feet of constructed space on this campus. And at this point, as we sit here, we’re at about less than or right around 2,500,000 square feet. So in that regard, we’re only a quarter of the way through physical development of that infrastructure. And, you know, what we have to realize is that we’re not developers of real estate as a private developer would look at that because they would see 10,000,000 square feet as a goal, and they would want to turn that around in five years or whatever. We have to be mindful and respectful of outside economies and markets that play on us. So if the state is able to appropriate, as they have just done, the money to build an additional portion of their engineering complex, wonderful. If the state’s economy takes a slowdown, that’s going away for a little while. So the plan is to build out, as you see in the diagram up there, top right corner [indicating a wall diagram]—a simulation—but was subject to a lot of upswings and downturns and so on. But certainly I think that when it’s completed, or as it gets to some sort of critical mass—we’re just about there now; there are around 6,000 people a day on this campus when class is in session—you add another 1,000 or 2,000 students to the mix, you know, there’ll be foot traffic in addition to vehicular traffic. And that’s when it becomes viable for us to make available a greater variety of eating, you know, food service places and so on. There’s a certain number that you have to have in terms of head count, and we’re just about there. So I think within the next 18 months [to] two years, you’ll see a real difference in the services that we’re able to provide, the amenities. The Alumni Center will be open later this year and—while I’m not suggesting that it’s a student dining room, by any means—it is going to offer opportunities for a lot of people to come onto this campus, for alumni to come back and fondly revisit the old place. It’s a magnificent structure. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, it’s—are you in a car right now?
DW: It’s worth taking a drive around. It’s pretty spectacular.
CM: Yeah, I have seen it in an earlier phase of construction.
DW: Okay. It’s just about finished now. They’re finishing off the interior. Pretty impressive.
CM: Your thoughts on the Veterinary School?
DW: Sure. The site on which the College of Veterinary Medicine is located is approximately 220 acres, give or take, and is also designated as part of Centennial Campus under the legislation that was enacted in ’99 or 2000. Which allows us to behave in a fairly innovative manner as we have done on the original Centennial Campus in terms of how we finance buildings, how we are able to co-locate corporate and government partners on that campus. So Centennial Biomedical Campus is ideally situated, very highly visible location—you have a fair amount of interest from the medical, biomedical devices industry, who are interested in partnering with a college of vet medicine because they have a tremendous set of capabilities in terms of their access to naturally occurring disease models and multiple animal species and so on. So it’s a very attractive location and we suspect that the master planning process is underway and not too far into the future, we think we’ll be breaking ground on some new properties over there that will open up another Centennial Campus with this one focused very strongly on biomedical applications whereas the original Centennial Campus is not an engineering park, it’s not a biomedical park; it is a multidisciplinary park. And you’ll see as you’ve drive around here, we have engineering, we have IT, we have life sciences, and so on. But [at] this biomedical campus we’re much more closely in line with bringing in partners who are involved in either pharmaceutical, biotech, or medical device sectors.
CM: Alright, thank you so much for speaking with me.
DW: My pleasure.