The public-private-partnership NCInnovation (NCI), a private non-profit which aims to help commercialize public university research in North Carolina, announced the expansion of its senior leadership team Tuesday.

Josh Howard will serve as General Counsel and Chief Ethics, Risk and Compliance Officer, while Erica Shrader joins the NCI as Vice President of Corporate Affairs.

Howard, a former federal prosecutor and one time Chairman of the North Carolin Board of Elections, has significant experience as general counsel and an ethics officer. Shrader joins NCI from Senate leader Phil Berger’s office, where she has served in multiple senior roles since 2011, including senior policy advisor and chief budget advisor.

Formed by select North Carolina business leaders in 2018, NCI was appropriated a total of $500 million in taxpayer funds by lawmakers in the biennial state budget. The money, divided up into two $250 million tranches over two years, will be used to fund an investment endowment, the proceeds from which NCI will use to issue grants to select university applied research projects in support of commercialization in the private market.

In lobbying the North Carolina General Assembly for funding, NCI initiatively called for $1.4 Billion in taxpayers’ dollars to finance the research-to-retail initiative. The initial budget proposal from the North Carolina Senate, from which Shrader joins NCI, included that $1.4 billion in full. However, the North Carolina House budget draft offered a censurably smaller sum of $50 million for the partnership. Through budget negotiations between the chambers, and hundreds of thousands of lobbying dollars deployed by NCI, the final budget bill awarded the private non-profit $500 million.

Of the hires, NCI chief executive officer Bennet Waters, said, “I believe we’ve assembled some of the best leaders not just in North Carolina, but in the entire country. Our team is motivated and laser-focused on helping North Carolina university researchers commercialize their discoveries.”

Since the state budget boon, NCI leaders say they’ve been “building the infrastructure required to support its grants process.”

“This infrastructure includes the policies, procedures, technology, and personnel required to solicit, review, validate, and recommend individual projects; the transactional process by which funding is distributed; and a comprehensive performance management and reporting system to ensure all grant dollars are used for the purposes intended,” reads the press release from NCI.

As a stipulation to receive the public funding, the budget law requires NCI to raise at least $25 million in private donations to fund its operations. The timeline for raising the required private capital is four to five years after receiving a sum 20 times that amount from North Carolina taxpayers. The North Carolina Department of Commerce has already requested the State Controller distribute the first $250 million in funds to NCI.