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Research and Innovation

Catching Up With Winners of the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund: Startup Success Stories

Read this roundup of stories to see where three NC State research-based startups — Fathom Science, SinnovaTek and TreeCo — are today thanks to early-stage support from the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund.

NC State University launched the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund (CIF) in 2010, with the goal to help more research-based technologies make it to market. 

The CIF, a competitive internal seed funding program managed by the Office of Research Commercialization, is designed to help research bridge the gap from public to private funding — and develop technology to the point that a startup can be formed or it can be licensed to existing companies.

“One of my top priorities over the years has been to bolster the university’s research commercialization so our researchers’ work can have a truly tangible impact on the world,” Chancellor Randy Woodson says. 

Today, the CIF has helped launch 32 startup companies and form 61 commercialization agreements — which have generated $2.5 million in licensing revenue and led to nearly $75 million in follow-on funding.

We caught up with three former CIF winners from throughout the years to see where they are now. These three startups are seeking novel commercial solutions to some of the grand global challenges of our changing environment — by growing healthier trees faster, tracking hurricanes and ocean patterns more accurately, and fighting food waste at the farm level.

Seed Funding Speeds Growth for TreeCo

A person peels apart a tree branch's outer stem to reveal a red xylem, or inner stem.

TreeCo was launched by Jack Wang and Rodolphe Barrangou mere months after they received CIF support in 2020. The forestry startup has already proven its patented CRISPR technology can be used to grow gene-edited trees in as little as 12 months. Wang and Barrangou hope to one day help the industry grow healthier trees that are more resistant to drought and other symptoms of climate change.

Fathom Science’s Metocean Forecasting Technology Wades Into Uncharted Territory

A photograph shows an oil rig standing in the middle of the ocean.

Fathom Science was launched in 2018 by Roy He, who received CIF support that same year. Fathom uses its proprietary metocean forecasting software to deliver customized data analytics solutions to clients across both the public and private sectors, including NOAA, NASA and an oil-and-gas industry leader. Fathom is working to accurately forecast when ocean eddies — which can wreak havoc on offshore drilling operations — will form as far as three months out.

SinnovaTek Seeks to Spark Innovation, Fight Food Waste

Two people in white lab coats and hair nets work at machinery. Packets of orange puree are in the foreground.

SinnovaTek was launched by Josip Simunovic in 2015 after he received CIF support the year prior. The food technology company seeks to spark innovation in the industry while also helping curb waste at the farm level. Through its subsidiary FirstWave Innovations, SinnovaTek has helped other small companies and entrepreneurs bring more than 100 new FDA-approved products to market.

All NC State innovators eligible to serve as a principal investigator can apply to the CIF; however, the underlying technology is ineligible if it is already licensed, under option or otherwise encumbered in the same field of use as the proposed project. 

To learn more about the CIF, visit