Summerville, SC—The South Carolina Research Authority announces three new leadership promotions: chief program officer, director of the Industry Solutions program, and director of the SC Launch program. These promotions are exciting changes to better meet the needs of SCRA’s external and internal stakeholders. 


Russell Cook has been promoted to chief program officer from director of Academic Innovations. In this new role, Cook will oversee Academic Innovations, Industry Solutions, the SC Launch program, as well as SC Launch Inc., SCRA’s investment affiliate. Matt Bell will remain as executive director of SC Launch Inc., reporting to Cook.

Russell initially joined SCRA in 2006 as one of the leaders of the SC Launch program when it started. He rejoined in 2021 when he began leading the Academic Innovations program. In the interim, he held various positions, including managing director for Comporium Ventures, providing strategic guidance for portfolio companies, and managing key external business and economic development relationships.  


Catherine Hayes has been promoted to director of Industry Solutions from the manager of Industry Solutions. She succeeds Cole Dudley, who will retire in April. Catherine joined SCRA in 2018 and has managed strategic collaborations between and among industry, academia, and startups and has partnered with local and state economic development organizations to recruit technology-based companies into South Carolina. She also serves as executive director of the Center of Resilience Excellence South Carolina (CORE SC). Before joining SCRA, Hayes was the executive director of the South Carolina Automotive Council. 


Lee MacIlwinen has been promoted to director of the SC Launch program from the general manager of SC Launch. He joined SCRA in 2016 and managed coaching, grants, and investments for technology-based startups. Before joining SCRA, he worked in international technology sales in San Francisco and Japan.  

“During this time of growth, these promotions are positioning us to have an even greater impact on the state’s innovation economy,” said SCRA President and CEO Bob Quinn. “While offering different services, our programs are also interconnected to ensure our stakeholders receive the right SCRA and SC Launch Inc. services at the right time.”   

SCRA had a $1.19 billion impact on the state’s economy in 2023 and supported 5,825 South Carolina-based jobs. The average salary of these jobs was $91,209, 70% higher than the statewide average.