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States with new university-industry partnerships & research capacity activities work to strengthen economies and talent pipelines

October 31, 2019
By: Laura Lacy Graham

Research universities and their partnerships with industry, including an institution’s research capacity, are important elements to building a state’s economy as well as the national economy and talent pipeline and workforce. Following on our review of higher education and commercialization programs, as well as our ongoing review of state activities in 2019 (see our stories on free tuition offerings, climate change and clean energy), this week we report on new university-industry partnerships, including research capacity activities, launched in 2019.

The following programs represent some of those efforts.


Earlier this month, the University of Alabama (UA) announced the launch of its Tide Research Partnership Program. The program is designed to strengthen UA’s research and development partnerships with industry, as well as encourage businesses and companies to sponsor research opportunities at UA, while also providing opportunities for students to work on real world solutions to current challenges. The program is managed by the UA Office for Research and Economic Development, and sets costs upfront for exclusive rights to possible intellectual property created by UA researchers as well as increases the percentage that inventors receive of future royalty payments.  The office also launched a five-year strategic plan earlier this year, which, among other goals, aims to significantly expand engagement with industry.


In April, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) announced that it would receive up to $65 million from the New York-based healthcare investment firm, Deerfield Management, in order to accelerate pharmaceutical development. Together, Deerfield Management and UIC is launching West Loop Innovations, which will assist UIC faculty as they develop innovative therapeutics and new medicines, commercialize discoveries, and advance the outcomes to patients with critical unmet needs. UIC is Deerfield’s 13th academic partner and second in Illinois – last year the firm pledged the same amount to Northwestern.

In May, the Illinois Innovation Network (INN) reported that it was expanding its network from six to 15 sites, and would encompass all of the state’s four-year public universities. The network was launched in 2018 and consisted of a group of six hubs across the state that seeks to drive economic development through research and development. The new hubs will be located at Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governors State University, Illinois State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Rockford (University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine), Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and Western Illinois University.  In FY 2019, Illinois lawmakers included $500 million in seed money in the budget to be used for the development and construction of the hubs. While Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration has set additional conditions on the release of state money, including private donation matches, INN stakeholders report that the network has already attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in matching funds, and its expansion should not be hindered. In the meantime, programming has begun at the newly established hubs.


In an effort to grow Iowa’s bioscience industry, Gov. Kim Reynolds recommended in her FY 2020 budget proposal, and lawmakers appropriated (Senate Bill 608), funding towards the creation of a collaborative center for the state’s university researchers and agricultural businesses. While the governor’s recommendation and subsequent appropriation was less than the $4 million requested by the Iowa Board of Regents, the funding seeks to build upon a 2017 report urging the state to bolster its support for the biobased chemicals, digital agriculture, vaccines and medical devices activities. The center, known as the Iowa Biosciences Development Center, would be part of the state’s Biosciences Innovation Ecosystem and established in Des Moines, where researchers at both the University of Iowa and Iowa State University will collaborate with businesses to fast track technologies and equipment created in the state’s universities’ research centers; while university administrators see the center as an incubator for research technology startups and training for the highly skilled workforce needed to advance Iowa’s bioscience industry.


In August, the University of Maryland (UMD) announced the launch of the Quantum Technology Center (QTC), which seeks to translate quantum physics research into innovative technologies. The new center is a collaboration between UMD’s Department of Physics in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS), and UMD’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. It will also partner with and have lab space within UMD’s new E.A. Fernandez IDEA (Innovate, Design and Engineer for America) Factory that is dedicated to creative innovation and entrepreneurship by students and faculty, and is slated to open in 2021. QTC seeks to capitalize on and pursue UMD collaborations with industry and government labs to assist promising quantum advances from the lab into the marketplace – currently UMD has two research partnerships with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), as well as a research collaboration with the Army Research Laboratory. The QTC will also train students in development and application of quantum technologies in order to build a skilled workforce in quantum-related engineering and other activities. The center will be administered through UMD’s Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics.


On Oct. 29, Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration announced two new grants totaling over $5.2 million from the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2) to support the development of new advanced manufacturing technologies across the state. The grants, co-awarded to Bridgewater State University and Stonehill College will host some of the new M2I2 program-funded infrastructure, including $3.8 million to fund a new integrated photonics training facility that will be co-led by the institutions, as well as a $1.5 million grant to Human Systems Integration, Inc., of Walpole, in order to support its collaboration with University of Massachusetts - Lowell to evolve its garment-embedded physiological monitoring platform. The grants are intended to provide support to university researchers developing cutting-edge technologies and to boost collaboration between private sector companies and the state’s top academic research institutions. The Baker administration has committed more than $100 million in funding to the M2I2 effort, which allows the Commonwealth to co-invest in projects supported by the national Manufacturing USA initiative, helping promote innovation and job growth across the state.


University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, along with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan have announced a new $300 million, 190,000-square-foot research and education center. The university, state and city are partnering with Stephen M. Ross, philanthropist and chairman of Related Companies and Bedrock CEO Matt Cullen, along with other leadership gifts from Dan Gilbert and other public and private funders, to plan a 14-acre Detroit Center for Innovation (DCI), which will be located in the heart of Detroit. The center will be the first phase of a planned multi-building development that will offer programs that focus on high-tech research, education and innovation. The facility will eventually serve 1,000 graduate and senior-level undergraduate students pursuing advance degrees in a range of high-tech innovation disciplines, including mobility, artificial intelligence, data science, entrepreneurship, sustainability, cybersecurity, financial technology and more. The initial phase also will include incubator and startup services for entrepreneurs and collaboration space for established companies. Construction is to begin in 2021.

New Jersey

In May, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that the New Jersey Innovation & Research Fellowship Program will provide $1.5 million in grants for pre- and post- Ph.D. research fellows as part of his commitment to build the state’s economy by positioning innovation and diversity as economic drivers. The program will support technological research and innovation activities in the state via New Jersey’s science and technology companies. This is the first time that such competitive grants have been offered by the state’s labor department, and are a result of legislation passed by lawmakers, which dedicates funding from the Workforce Development Partnership Fund towards the “establishment of technological seed growth” to promote the creation of technologies, help startups, and assist the state’s established businesses to continue to drive innovation — all the while encouraging the Ph.D. candidates and doctoral degree recipients and the companies who hire them to remain and do business in New Jersey. The 24-month grants are meant to cover the salaries of the fellows.

North Carolina

A new five-year project, the Accelerated Innovation in Manufacturing Biologics (AIM-Bio), was launched in September by North Carolina State University (NC State). The $27 million project, funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, will be administered by NC State in collaboration with the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in Copenhagen.  The international collaborative research and training program in biomanufacturing science and technology, will focus its efforts on the next generation of biopharmaceutical manufacturing involving biotherapeutics, and will establish nine new research projects that focus on technologies of critical importance to biopharmaceutical manufacturing, ranging from cell factory engineering to bioreactor design and optimization to purification of biopharmaceutical products.

Rhode Island

Earlier this month, Gov. Gina Raimondo and University of Rhode Island (URI) President David Dooley announced the second round of the state’s RI Innovation Campus projects that seek to catalyze academic research into new commercial products and businesses. The two Innovation Campuses are expected to create hundreds of jobs in the advanced industries of advanced materials manufacturing and gene therapy. The University of Rhode Island will partner with POLARIS MEP, Toray, Composites One, Hope Global, the International Yacht Restoration School of Technology and Trades (IYRS), the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA), the Composites Alliance of RI (CARI), the Rhode Island Textiles Innovation Network (RITIN), the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association (RIMA), and DESIGNxRI to create a new center, known as the 401 Tech Bridge Materials Innovation Center, focused on innovation in advanced textiles and composites. The 401 Tech Bridge Materials Center will partner with entities such as the Navy or agencies such as the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) to explore textile and composite projects for rapid development and deployment. Together, industry, government and academia are expected to develop new products and quickly commercialize through those partnerships.

In addition, the University of Rhode Island will partner with Roger Williams Medical Center (RWMC) to form the Rhode Island Cell Therapy Training Institute (RI-CTTI) within the Rhode Island CAR-T Design and Development Center, to foster accelerated, critically needed immunotherapy manufacturing in coordination with critical clinical studies. The goal of the center is to accelerate immuno-oncology innovation in the state and serve as a magnet to draw biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to Rhode Island.

The innovation campuses are supported by a bond approved by voters in November 2016, while private investment in these two projects is expected to be more than $12 million. The first round of Innovation Campus projects was announced in December 2018.


In June, the Virginia Research Investment Committee (a state committee) certified four regional operating nodes as part of an initiative involving a statewide network to boost higher education research in cyber security, create work-study opportunities for students in the field, and foster new commercial technology to drive economic growth. The initiative, also known as CyberX, will encompass 320 faculty members from 39 higher education institutions, 65 private companies, four federal government agencies and 45 regional partners, and is financed by a $25 million appropriation included in last year’s two-year state spending plan. The Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) will lead one node (or CyberX hub) in conjunction with the University of Virginia, Longwood University, Virginia State University, and J. Sargeant Reynolds and John Tyler community colleges; Virginia Tech will lead a research node in Southwest Virginia with Radford University and the University of Virginia-Wise. George Mason University, based in Fairfax, will lead the Northern Virginia node, which will include researchers from James Madison University, the University of Mary Washington, and Northern Virginia, Lord Fairfax and Germanna community colleges. And in Hampton Roads, Old Dominion University will lead a research node with Christopher Newport University, the College of William & Mary, Norfolk State University, and Paul D. Camp, Thomas Nelson and Tidewater community colleges.

Although the committee certified the nodes, it also decided to withhold state funding and its final approval of the regional CyberX hubs’ business plans until after an additional review by a new high-level state work group that will shape its relationship with the research hubs. The budget also includes $10 million to fund research operations at the four nodes, as well as $5 million in capital funds to pay for laboratories and other physical improvements to research facilities. Once the state has a clearer understanding of how the four nodes will interact with each other, the initiative’s first project will be to establish a test bed for 5G technology to ensure the next generation of wireless technology is secure from cyber threats.

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