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New Member Spotlight: RTI International


UIDP welcomes RTI International as a new member organization. RTI International is an independent, nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition. It works to address complex social and scientific challenges on behalf of governments, businesses, foundations, universities, and other clients and partners. Jacqueline M. Olich, Ph.D., vice president, university collaborations, provided responses to our interview questions.

UIDP: What does RTI International hope to gain from its membership with UIDP in the coming year?

Olich: RTI International is a leading independent research institute with nearly 5,500 staff. Last year, we had 3,500+ active projects across the globe generating $1B in revenue. Our mission is to improve the human condition by turning knowledge into practice. Our researchers contribute to the advancement of science in 1000+ publications per year and our work addresses the world’s most critical problems with science-based solutions in pursuit of a better future. Knowing UIDP’s established commitment to building partnerships across the globe by uniting innovative companies and research universities, RTI hopes to further elevate our work and develop new collaborations. We are always scanning for opportunities and identifying potential partners. Collaboration helps us advance our mission and science.

UIDP: Please share any innovative ways that RTI International is making an impact on U-I interactions.

Olich: Since it was established in 2014, RTI’s innovative University Collaboration Office (UCO) has strengthened and cultivated numerous strategic partnerships with universities.

The UCO co-invested in successful bilateral collaborations with Duke University, North Carolina Central University, the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and NC State University. The NC State-RTI Game-Changing Research Incentive Program (GRIP), for example, was a $2.3M interdisciplinary seed-fund research initiative. Already, it has resulted in nearly $37 million in extramural funding, including several large grants and three faculty scholar awards, five patents filed, 16 publications, 51 posters/presentations, and three large-scale extramural proposals under or pending review. The recently announced $25 million National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center – Science and Technologies for Phosphorus Sustainability (STEPS), is an offshoot of GRIP.

Our programs are designed to cultivate the entire scientific ecosystem encompassing everyone from interns to senior researchers. In FY21, the UCO facilitated 145 internships at RTI for the next generation of research and research leaders at RTI.

We developed a robust RTI University Scholars Program and have appointed 36 scholars from the UNC system and Duke University. These researchers take scholarly leave from their home institutions to collaborate with RTI researchers. The 36 scholars appointed since 2014 have contributed to more than 28 joint proposals and more than $61 million in projects.

UIDP: Please share a particularly successful university-industry project or partnership.

Olich: The Forethought challenge comes to mind. The RTI $5 million+ Research Collaboration Challenge harkens back to RTI’s roots when we were founded at the heart of the Research Triangle Park more than 60 years ago. This competition for researchers based at the six Forethought partner institutions—RTI, NC A&T State University, North Carolina State University, Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina Central University—catalyzes innovative and compelling projects that meld scientific rigor, technical proficiency, and innovative methods to create solutions to today’s problems.

The key to Forethought’s success is the process itself that encourages research leaders to reach beyond their comfort zones. Forethought received 136 team submissions in areas like biomanufacturing, health equity, climate action, and quantum technologies, among others. We engaged more than 680 researchers. Forethought opens the gates of each institution and creates a web of connections to show that the region really is greater than the sum of its parts.

Through this challenge, we will invest in our collective future by expanding existing partnerships and forging new ones that leverage existing resources and optimize knowledge-based growth. RTI and our partners will commit to supporting at least one regional team that presents a compelling project for regional collaboration and transformational innovation.

The competition is ongoing with the winning team slated to be announced in November. Learn more here.

UIDP: Please share with us something about RTI International that people may not know.

Olich: RTI has a unique asset—the University Collaboration Office (UCO) and the University Research Collaboration Committee (URCC) of the Board of Governors. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only standing board committee at a non-profit research institute dedicated to collaborations.