Bill Aimutis: In Pursuit of Innovation
September 4, 2019
Dr. Bill Aimutis is a hard guy to pin down these days. With the opening of the NC Food Innovation Lab only two months away, Bill fills his days with a vast array of preparatory tasks—everything from physically building parts of the facility to selecting state-of-the-art equipment to meeting with potential clients. As Executive Director of NCFIL, Bill will oversee full operations of the organization once its doors open in November, including ensuring regulatory processes are followed as well as developing new business.With all that is at stake with this innovative, collaborative initiative, you may think Bill would be stressed—but ask any of his colleagues, and you’ll quickly realize that’s not his style. A grounded and thoughtful leader, he stands ready to take the helm of the professional NCFIL team and be in charge of the lab’s day-to-day management. Bill’s excited about what the lab has to offer its local, regional and global community—including growth-phase entrepreneurs, established food companies, venture capitalists and accelerators.
“NCFIL’s strength is in its versatility—this facility will succeed with a wide variety of customers with unique needs and objectives. We’ll be able to support start-up companies working to get new products to market; established companies seeking to expand product lines; and equipment manufacturers looking to demonstrate new equipment capability. Each of these customer types will require different ways of interacting and collaborating. NCFIL is ready for that challenge.”
As someone who thrives in a chaotic environment, Bill is particularly skilled at harnessing chaos to create order. NCFIL is yet another challenge for this seasoned scientist, one for which he is ready. He’s flexible, acting like a sailboat, able to see where the wind goes and tack to it. Due to the innovative nature of NCFIL, Bill’s flexibility is an asset. He says, “We’ve identified the end targets of where we want to be, but we are not exactly sure the course this project is going to take us.”
But seeking order in the uncertainty is Bill’s super power. And it’s already working. He has engaged four start-up companies and two established companies to use NCFIL’s resources and is in conversation with several others.
What NC State is offering with NCFIL is quite different than what similar university-operated facilities offer, says Bill. A distinct focus on plant-based food teamed with a primary dedication to economic development makes this food innovation lab like no other and enables NCFIL to be on the cutting edge of processing technologies, with all things benefitting the entire food industry.
As a fisherman and hunter, Bill likes the pursuit. He says, “When fishing, you never quite know what’s going to be on the line when you get a tug. I like the big fight.” That passion serves him well in this new position—the exact character of NCFIL is on the brink of discovery, but as Executive Director, Bill will pursue its undeniable success with thoughtfulness and determination.
“I would like to see North Carolina become the state known for food and nutrition technology."