Research

Convergent science at Carolina

The Institute for Convergent Science will bring radically multidisciplinary teams together to address society’s most intractable problems.

Genome Science Building
UNC Genome Sciences Building

The great problems of our time are as vast as they are complex. Deadly diseases, energy shortages, water scarcity and more will not be solved by one discipline, industry or sector alone, but rather by a diverse array of experts. As a leading global public research university bound by 227 years of service to the greater good, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill seeks daring solutions to the world’s most challenging problems.

Convergent science — which supports the Discover initiative in the University’s strategic plan, Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good — is the next step in realizing those solutions.

The science of serendipity

It is well known that innovative approaches and solutions often result from the serendipitous collision of ideas, research and technologies. The art of convergence is to make this serendipity routine; supporting the long and difficult journey from innovative idea to transformational product, technology or solution. Convergent science sparks and accelerates the kinds of multidisciplinary collaborations that will enable UNC-Chapel Hill’s global scientific and creative communities to address today’s most complex challenges.

“Carolina’s more than $1.15 billion research enterprise has made us one of the most innovative universities in the world, and our success is because of Carolina’s unique culture of collaboration. Through convergent science, Carolina is prepared to lead our nation in solving the grand challenges of our time.”
— Kevin Guskiewicz, Chancellor

What is convergent science?

Convergent science is a problem-centered approach to research that draws together innovators from a large span of disciplines to address real-world issues. These issues — such as water shortage and purification, energy storage and treatments for seemingly incurable diseases — cross disciplines and traditional methods of scientific problem solving. Teams from the UNC College of Arts & Sciences, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, UNC School of Medicine and UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center are breaking down the barriers to new discoveries by finding the most direct path to solving the world’s greatest problems. By redefining the journey from idea to discovery to market, convergent science will enable research teams to focus on solving the problem at hand with the resources needed to drive breakthroughs.

What is the UNC Institute for Convergent Science?

A key component of Carolina’s convergent science mission, the UNC Institute for Convergent Science (ICS) is, at its very core, about bringing radically multidisciplinary teams together to address society’s most intractable problems. Located in Carolina’s premier science research facility, the UNC Genome Sciences Building, ICS brings the very best commercialization process to the University’s more than $1.15 billion research enterprise.

ICS will provide a new Innovation Framework based on a convergent approach to problem-solving, developing new technologies and de-risking to ensure the fastest, most successful path to commercialization. By redefining the journey from idea to proof of concept to market, ICS will enable research teams to focus on solving the problems at hand — collectively at one central hub — with the infrastructure, lab space, expertise and funding needed to drive breakthroughs and create exceptional outcomes.

Innovation by the numbers

Carolina’s more than $1.15 billion research enterprise has made us one of the most innovative universities in the world. Our success is due to Carolina’s unique culture of collaboration.

innovation by the numbers

* Statistics are from Innovate Carolina and include IQVIA

According to the latest rankings published by Reuters (October 2019), Carolina is the #6 most innovative university in the world.

  1. Stanford University (private)
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (private)
  3. Harvard University (private)
  4. University of Pennsylvania (private)
  5. University of Washington (public)
  6. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  7. KU Leuven (Belgium)
  8. University of Southern California (private)
  9. Cornell University (private)
  10. Imperial College London (UK)

What is the Innovation Framework?

The Innovation Framework is a novel process through which projects are carefully reviewed and refined until ready to proceed. With the guidance of our eminent innovation experts, NIMBLE projects — “New Invention: Make it Big or Leave Early” — will be subjected to a disciplined schedule and demonstrable milestones with the knowledge that early failure, and a return to the research commons, is as instructive as success. By employing the Innovation Framework, ICS will accelerate the translation of convergent ideas into technological solutions.

The innovation framework

(Image courtesy of University Development)

The research commons is open to all and programmed to stimulate problem-based conversations across disciplines. New ideas formed in the commons can become “NIMBLE” projects that receive ICS space and funding to complete a demonstration phase. Demonstrated solutions can leave the ICS by launching into the commercial or non-profit world.

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