Dennis Kekas is NC State’s associate vice chancellor of partnerships and economic development, where he oversees industry and government partnerships, including those on Centennial Campus. As the College continues its move to Centennial, we asked him about what makes it a great campus.
What makes Centennial unique among research campuses in the United States?
On Centennial Campus, leaders in industry and government work side by side with university researchers and students to solve some of society’s biggest challenges. Centennial is a true live-work-play-learn community, offering a mix of corporate and university buildings, housing and dining, and outdoor amenities, such as a championship golf course, walking and biking trails, a hotel and conference center, and a public lake.
What are some recent successes for the campus that you’d like to highlight?
Last spring, NC State was named the first university IBM Quantum Computing Hub in North America, joining a global network of top Fortune 500 companies, national research labs and leading universities to advance quantum computing. NC State, in partnership with IBM, established a membership-based hub, enabling access to IBM’s commercial quantum computing devices, including the most advanced and scalable universal systems available. Quantum computing has the potential to solve problems currently intractable with classical computing. Another example came last year when leading apparel company VF Corporation announced a long-term, strategic partnership with NC State and opened an innovation center on Centennial to collaborate with our researchers and students.
What impact will eventually having the entire College of Engineering located on Centennial Campus have?
While NC State is one of the top producers of engineers and computer scientists in the U.S., demand has never been higher, and that is only expected to continue. By unifying the College on Centennial, NC State will continue to produce a future-ready workforce and create jobs by developing new technologies, launching new companies and bringing cutting-edge products to market.
What types of companies have a presence on Centennial Campus?
Centennial is home to more than 70 companies, government agencies and nonprofits, ranging from early-stage startups to large enterprises listed on Forbes’ Global 1000.
For example, global technology company LexisNexis started with 150 employees on campus in 2014 and has more than 700 today. Much of their growth is a result of hiring our graduates. Also, Eastman Chemical Company has invested more than $16 million in its partnership with NC State, with a significant ROI. Their partnership is heavily focused on sponsored research — they’ve worked with NC State on 86 research projects in 11 departments across the University.
What are the next steps in the campus’ growth?
Fitts-Woolard Hall, which broke ground last year, will provide critical infrastructure for the College, and help attract more businesses and industries to North Carolina. Starting construction this year, the Plant Sciences Initiative Building brings together the state’s agriculture community and biotech industry to support our farmers in feeding a growing global population. By developing new methods to increase yields, enhance sustainability and extend growing seasons, it will have a significant impact on global food production. The next mixed-use development will be multi-phase, with lab, office, retail, residential and innovation space.