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Prepared Remarks for VBHEC Annual Higher Education Summit Panel on "Higher Education’s Role in Economic Growth"

November 12, 2015

I have some comments about the value of university research and its impact on economic growth. University-based research has been the primary engine of American economic growth since World War II; it has created new jobs, improved health care, and led to production of new technologies, new products, and entirely new industries. 

I will share a few examples that involve UVA.

In 2007, Rolls-Royce established a partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia as part of an economic-incentive package to build new factories in our state. The state made an initial investment of $40 million to bolster advanced manufacturing capabilities at UVA, VA Tech, and John Tyler Community College. This money was used to hire faculty in key areas, sponsor research, renovate laboratories, endow graduate student fellowships, and provide international internships – all of which enhanced our ability to support Rolls-Royce and other industrial partners in Virginia.

This project led to the creation of two innovative centers: the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (C-CAM) near Petersburg, and the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Propulsion Systems (C-CAPS)—a virtual center that funds research at UVA and VA Tech. C-CAPS focuses on basic research, while C-CAM focuses on applied research.

In the past eight years, the partnership has produced substantial educational, research, and economic value: 

  • More than 500 new jobs have been created;
  • More than $380 million has been invested in capital construction for the facilities;
  • Almost 2,000 UVA students have taken classes in advanced manufacturing;
  • More than 70 university students have interned at CCAM, and nearly 30 students have interned at Rolls-Royce;
  • University members have attracted almost $18 million in sponsored research;
  • 22 high-quality advanced manufacturing companies from around the world have invested in C-CAM; and,
  • The project has attracted almost $43 million in funding for workforce training and K-12 education.

This is a great example of a public-private partnership that brings together business, government, and higher education to address 21st-century challenges and to boost economic growth. It’s also a great example of how Virginia’s universities can work together to support the economy. CCAM university members now include UVA, VA Tech, VCU, ODU, and VSU (Virginia State University).

Another example from UVA is our Applied Research Institute. We formed ARI in 2011 to create pathways for government and industry partners to connect with UVA’s R&D enterprise, our teaching capabilities, and our human talent. In recent years, the Institute has worked with research partners on projects related to cyber-security, infectious disease, bio-informatics, and other global challenges.

Through ARI, UVA has entered into collaborations with the Navy and with the Army. Last February, we signed an agreement with the Navy Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division to support a variety of research efforts, including work in the area of big data analytics, and to provide executive education to military and civilian leaders working with the agency. We partnered with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to share resources on an array of defense-related R&D projects in such areas as robotics, traumatic brain injury, coatings and corrosion, and military decision making. 

In the most recent news from ARI, UVA is now an academic partner in a multi-disciplinary team led by government contractor LMI that — just this month — was awarded funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a global health initiative. The project is called Global Data and Technical Assistance, or G-DATA, and the team will provide technical assistance and scientific services to help CDC evaluate programs related to its global health policy-making. This is a five-year, $150-million blanket purchase agreement in which UVA will be a key partner. 

We are also driving economic growth in emerging industries. UVA’s new Data Science Institute is preparing our students for work in business and government in the complex and rapidly-expanding field of data analytics, storage, security, and ethics. Through the Institute, we created a new Master of Science in Data Science (MSDS) program. Even before the first students entered the program, employers were calling to ask when our first graduates would be available for hiring.

UVA’s Economic Development Accelerator, a public-private partnership between UVA and the Commonwealth, facilitates knowledge transfer and business development stemming from University research and innovation. The partnership has supported proof-of-concept research programs, such as the i6 Challenge Virginia Innovation Partnership, and accelerated University innovations to market.

It has also enhanced the business development activities of UVA’s Licensing and Ventures Group. This support has enabled the Group to adopt a risk-tolerant approach to business development, providing resources to a wider array of potential commercial technologies, startup companies, and licensees. As a result, LVG has seen a significant increase in disclosures, transactions, and startup activity in the last two years.

Tech-transfer activities result in new products and services, improvements to health care, and job creation. Over the last 20 years, UVA’s LVG activities have created more than 800 jobs, more than 50 start-up companies that remain active, about 340 products that are either in development or already on the market, and more than 90 student internships.

These are just a few of UVA’s many examples of research and partnership that drive economic growth, and my peers at other colleges and universities around the Commonwealth have their own programs and initiatives.

Together, they demonstrate the remarkable economic impact of university research.