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$24M Foundation gift to U. Arkansas transforms commercialization, economic development

February 14, 2019

Late last year, the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation announced a $23.7 million investment to strengthen technology-based economic development efforts at the University of Arkansas. Additional details on this investment became clearer this week, as the university announced three subsets of its Chancellor’s Fund, which invests in strategic initiatives under the direction of the vice chancellor for research and innovation.

A newly created Gap Fund will distribute up to $400,000 per year, with a focus on teams that have completed the NSF’s I-Corps training program.  The Commercialization Fund will award $1 million per year to develop university technologies with strong market potential, with typical awards between $5,000 and $50,000. The Innovation and Collaboration Fund, now in its third year, will distribute $1 million in seed money each year for interdisciplinary projects that have not previously received funding. The gift from the Walton Family Foundation will also go toward boosting student entrepreneurship programs, hiring star faculty in signature areas, and expanding industry partnerships.

According to a November press release announcing the foundation’s gift, the funds will be allocated strategically across the Office of Research and Innovation and the Office of Economic Development. In the Office of Research and Innovation, funds will be allocated to:

  • Strategic initiatives in research, scholarly and creative activities across the university, including operations and programs under the direction of the vice chancellor for research and innovation ($2 million);
  • Faculty hires in "signature research areas" across a range of disciplines throughout the university ($5 million);
  • Research and Sponsored Programs capacity ($1.59 million); and,
  • Innovation funds for faculty research with commercialization potential ($5 million).

In the Office of Economic Development, funds will be allocated to:

  • Strategic initiatives, operations and programs under the direction of the vice chancellor for economic development ($2 million);
  • Expansion of industry partnerships ($1.67 million);
  • Technology Ventures capacity building and outreach ($3.6 million);
  • Patent fund ($400,000);
  • Entrepreneurship and Innovation programming ($460,000); and,
  • Gap funding ($2 million).


Arkansashigher ed, commercialization, foundations