To stimulate the formation of new interdisciplinary translational research teams and innovative pilot projects, the South Carolina Clinical and Translational Research (SCTR) Institute (South Carolina Clinical and Translational Science Award, CTSA) initiated biannual scientific retreats with ‘speed dating’ networking sessions. Retreat themes were prioritized based on the following criteria; cross-cutting topic, unmet medical need, generation of novel technologies and methodologies. Each retreat begins with an external keynote speaker followed by a series of brief research presentations by local researchers focused on the retreat theme, articulating potential areas for new collaborations. After each session of presentations, there is a 30 min scientific ‘speed dating’ period during which the presenters meet with interested attendees to exchange ideas and discuss collaborations. Retreat attendees are eligible to compete for pilot project funds on the topic of the retreat theme. The 10 retreats held have had a total of 1004 participants, resulted in 61 pilot projects with new interdisciplinary teams, and 14 funded projects. The retreat format has been a successful mechanism to stimulate novel interdisciplinary research teams and innovative translational research projects. Future retreats will continue to target topics of cross-cutting importance to biomedical and public health research.