Members and Friends of Virginia Bio,
What can be done to optimize the extraordinary potential of the state’s great research universities, to increase extramural research funding, and accelerate discovery, development and commercialization of their innovations?
This important and timely question was the focus of the Virginia Higher Education Research Summit held in Richmond on June 9. The Summit was hosted by the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia, in cooperation with the Center for Excellence in Education, Center for Innovative Technology, Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Business Higher Education Council, and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. The Summit brought together some 250 leaders and stakeholders committed to supporting and growing Virginia’s research enterprise, including representatives from executive and legislative branches of state and federal government, Virginia’s public and private higher education institutions, large and small businesses. Presenters showcased exemplary private/public partnerships between universities and the private sector, challenges and opportunities for acquiring capital to drive an idea to market, advice from university researchers to young investigators, and corporate thoughts about future fields that will be required to address the multi-dimensional challenges in health, cyber, manufacturing, energy, agriculture and the environment. Research and development of the bioscience and medicine featured prominently.
This day-long event featured Governor Terry McAuliffe and Secretary of Education Ann Holton, among others, and two panels of experts, one from the academic side and the other from industry. The morning panel featured eminently successful academic researchers speaking about “Public Private Partnerships: Exemplary Models”. The panelists were Donald Brown, UVa, Paul Fisher, VCU, Michael Friedlander, Virginia Tech Carillion Research Institute, Richard Heller, ODU and Duminda Wijesekera, George Mason, and I was privileged to moderate. The afternoon panel furnished a funder and industry perspective on a “Forecast of Future Market Demand and Trends” and featured James Ellenbogen, MITRE Corporation, Donald Hamadyk, Newport News Shipbuilding, Sean Kanuck, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and Christopher Yochim, AstraZeneca, and was moderated by Bobbie Kilberg, CEO of NVTechCouncil. The program with slides is at: http://www.schev.edu/VAResearchSummit.asp
Virginia is home to a number of extraordinary research universities with strengths in varied fields, and they serve as the engine for much of the Commonwealth’s innovation in the biosciences. Both new and established university researchers hold enormous potential to make and develop discoveries that will save lives and improve health and well-being worldwide, while creating jobs and economic development in the Commonwealth.
It is widely believed that traditional federal sources of science research funding such as NIH will remain level at best in the foreseeable future, and thus to increase research funding our universities need to increase collaboration with industry and foundations. At the same time, competition for these funding sources will increase, and thus to be successful our universities must find new ways to become more valuable and more competitive. One obvious response is to improve collaborations within the state universities; however, our great institutions are geographically widely dispersed and structurally not as tightly coordinated as in some other states. SCHEV CEO Peter Blakely and Board members summed up the discussions at the end of the day and sketched next steps, declaring the Summit a call to action - the beginning for an informed and purposeful statewide effort to encourage and support private and public research collaborations and extramural funding.
Virginia Bio pledges its support of this important effort going forward, and will be involved in follow through. If this is a subject of particular interest to you as a member, please let me know and I will keep you apprised of developments and tap your energy and time as opportunities arise.