UNC-Wilmington now has a permanent leader for its cutting-edge hub of business startups.
The university recently announced Diane Durance has been named director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). She begins work in her new position on June 20.
Durance, current president of Michigan non-profit MiQuest, brings with her a decade of experience leading, coaching and mentoring start-up technology ventures and entrepreneurial support organizations. She replaces Jim Roberts, who stepped down from the position in March 2015. UNCW business instructor Chuck Whitlock has been acting as interim director since that time.
“After a very competitive search process, I’m pleased to welcome Diane to the helm of the CIE,” said Ron Vetter, UNCW’s associate provost for research and dean of the graduate school. “She understands the challenges entrepreneurs face in the start-up and growth phases. Her experience and expertise will help us continue to provide business startups the tools and resources to get off the ground and grow.”
Prior to her position at MiQuest, Durance was the executive director of the venture support organization’s predecessor, Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest. She is also former president of the Ann Arbor IT Zone, that region’s first incubator for start-up technology ventures. Additionally, she launched and operated a telecommunications engineering firm, a contract publishing firm and a residential construction company.
As CIE director, Durance will collaborate across the campus, as well as with businesses, government agencies and investors, to further the center’s mission to be a leading business accelerator and incubator space for the university and the region at large.
“I’m excited to be joining the CIE and look forward to accelerating the growth of a dynamic, collaborative and resource-rich entrepreneurial environment at UNCW and throughout the region. I’m impressed by the work that has been done to establish the CIE and I’m eager to build on the strengths of its programs and relationships to support and increase the success of student, faculty and community ventures,” Durance said.
Since opening in 2013, CIE has housed local startups to nurture the ventures into “high-growth, high-impact companies,” according to a UNCW spokeswoman. The center also annually hosts nearly 100 educational and informative events that tackle relevant economic challenges and opportunities for today’s growing businesses.