INNOVATION IN EXTENSION: North Carolina State University

The following describes an innovation.

Region: Southern

Main contact information for this innovation: Joe Zublena

Main contact job title / position: Associate Dean and Director of NC Cooperative Extension Service

Main contact number: 919-515-2813

Main contact email address:

Innovation name: Strategic Vision

Brief description of innovation as provided in online survey: NC State Cooperative Extension was experiencing declining resources for over a decade. Total recurring losses exceeded $14M which affected function, structure and programs. These losses were occurring at a critical time for NC which is projected to  in a position to grow agriculture to $100B by 2050. In 2013-2014 we began a study and effort to focus our program and resources for greater impacts and value to our clients and the state of NC. The effort was linked to Cooperative Extension's Centennial celebration so citizens could understand our organizations role in the development of the state. 14 listening sessions were conducted across the state receiving input from over 2000 citizens and 600 employees. A separate survey was sent to all  local government officials with 179 respondents. In addition, we interviewed 8 other states that underwent similar reorganizational efforts to assess lessons learned. Results were shared with a 40 member vision team of internal and external constituents. The vision team broke themselves into 7 sub-teams each of which submitted sets of key recommendations on which programs to focus for greatest impact and value, county restructuring to fit future funding expectations, and program enhancement to exceed client expectations. Decisions were finalized and announced to all Extension employees on August 12, 2014. Implementation actions were initiated after the announcement. All of our efforts were posted on a web site for transparency and openness. The link is:

The following describes an innovation.
Region: Southern

Main contact information for this innovation: Steven Lommel

Main contact job title / position: NCARS Assoc. Director; Asst. Vice Chancellor for Research; William Neal Reynolds Professor College of Agriculture & Life Sciences Plant Pathology Department

Main contact number: 919-515-6990

Main contact email address:

Innovation name: Plant Science Initiative

Brief description of innovation as provided in online survey: If all goes as planned, by the year 2020 students at North Carolina State University will be working alongside leading researchers in the plant sciences in a first-of-its-kind facility on NC State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh.

The North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative is a brand new way of approaching the plant sciences because it will be interdisciplinary, where researchers across disciplines, from soil scientists to plant breeders to engineers to biochemists to economists, will work together in a collaborative way.

The goal, according to Richard Linton, dean of NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is to make North Carolina the worldwide leader in plant sciences.

Linton said the university reached out to stakeholders across the state and the same message kept coming back that North Carolina was in the ideal position to take the lead in this new and innovative initiative. Key drivers, according to Linton, were the great diversity of North Carolina agriculture as well as the state being the home of Research Triangle Park, which is located just a few miles away from the Centennial Campus.

“This puts us in a unique position. We also have this other capacity that I don’t think any other state in the country has and that’s the ability to do research with plant products with so many different types of climates and so many different types of soils,” Linton said.

NC State works in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture in research at 18 different research stations across the state where scientists can mimic plant growth almost anywhere in the entire East Coast, with the exception of some tropical regions of Florida, Linton explained. North Carolina is the nation’s third most diverse agricultural state, offering nearly all climatic and soil conditions.

“The primary goal is to be able to assemble all of the plant science disciplines together so that they can work together on the grand global challenges in plant sciences,” Linton said.

To bring people together in an interdisciplinary way, it is the hope that scientists and students will work together in the new Plant Science Research Complex at the heart of the NC State Centennial Campus on such issues as drought, disease and pest management, plant breeding and food security.

The goal of $177 million in funding for the initiative will support programming costs, laboratory suites, offices and seminar and classroom space. Linton said the state-of-the-art building will accommodate 65 plant sciences research faculty plus incubator and start-up project faculty. It will also include a rooftop glasshouse as well as an atrium.

“It truly is a first-of-its-kind facility. There is nothing quite like it anywhere,” Linton said.

The following describes an innovation.
Region: Southern

Main contact information for this innovation: Christopher Daubert

Main contact job title / position: Professor and Department Head

Main contact number: 919-515-2951

Main contact email address:

Innovation name: Food Processing and Manufacturing Initiative

Brief description of innovation as provided in online survey: Bringing manufacturing back to N.C.

In 2014, the North Carolina General Assembly funded this initiative to diversify and add value to agricultural based businesses through food processing.  The goal is to expand the economic impact of agriculture and agribusiness in our state by 22 percent — to $100 billion — by 2025.

A greater bread basket increases in food and beverage manufacturing — entirely possible given North Carolina’s highly diverse variety of crops, livestock, soils and climate — will be the cornerstone of this initiative.  To this end, we are conducting a feasibility study and an economic assessment. 

Collaborative partners

We will focus the strengths of our university, government and industry entities towards a common goal — an enhanced food entrepreneur assistance program centered on job growth. 

Innovation and entrepreneurship

Our university develops and transfers new technologies and research to startup and commercial enterprises. These new technologies drive innovation and efficiencies that will result in entrepreneurial development in communities across North Carolina and the globe. 

We will grow jobs

From innovations that can transfer commercially to increased payrolls at new manufacturing sites, our goal is clear: Grow jobs. To do this, we propose competitive proof-of-concept funding to assist our campus in moving promising technologies and strategies from theory into reality