New Member Spotlight: University of Vermont
UIDP welcomes the University of Vermont as a new member organization. Founded in 1791, the University of Vermont whole-heartedly embraces its land-grant mission reflected in its commitment to excellence in teaching, research, and extension with an eye to economic opportunities for the State of Vermont. UIDP spoke with Corine Farewell, DVM, MBA, director of UVM Innovations, lecturer in the Grossman School of Business and advisor to the UVM Health Network Ventures Fund, about UVM’s goals for membership in UIDP.
UIDP: What is UVM hoping to gain from this membership with UIDP in the coming year?
Farewell: What we’re hoping to gain is broader access and an expanded set of tools for working with industry. We want to identify opportunities to increase our research expenditures and build our research base at UVM, especially around collaborations with industry. Federal dollars are always going to be the lifeblood of the university research enterprise, but industry partnerships are extremely important and augment how research benefits the entire UVM community.
The end result of this wonderful research that our faculty is doing often answers those basic science questions—and the next logical question from the faculty is “how is my life work in this research lab going to be realized for the public good?” It truly benefits the entire faculty at UVM to build industry relationships in a smart way. As a smaller university, having access to the institutional knowledge, in real time, of the industry partners, as well as the larger universities who are members of UIDP, is very beneficial.
UIDP: What are the current challenges that UVM is facing in the development of university-industry partnerships?
Farewell: One of the challenges of being a smaller university is that, although we have a really solid base of world-class researchers in our faculty, it’s very difficult for us to get the word out to potential partners who may be looking at institutions with larger numbers of faculty working the areas of interest—logically so. Through UIDP, I’m hoping that we can take our star faculty and perhaps put them forward to collaborate in a partnership that may already be in place at a larger university, or to attract industry partners to help us build the research base around these stars.
I often say that we compete above our weight class. So getting into the arena—to have that interaction through UIDP—is really valuable to us.
UIDP: Please share any innovative ways that UVM is making an impact on U-I interactions.
Farewell: One of the benefits of being a smaller university is that as an institution, we can be extremely flexible and innovative in our industry relationships. That translates to collaborative industry research agreements and agreements with other institutions. If an industry partner needs specific language that’s unique to them, we can work with that; as long as there’s that desire to get the deal done on both sides, it gets done.
There are career opportunities as well for our graduate students and our postdocs, and opportunities for publications in peer reviewed journals. It’s not just about the financial support from the industry partner to do the research project. It’s also building that collaborative trust and respect and being willing to share your mutual interests.
UIDP: Tell us about a particularly successful university-industry project or partnership.
Farewell: One example that we’re working through right now with an industry partner—which I was really happy to see on UIDP’s project list—is having a PhD candidate under employment in industry while he is doing his PhD thesis on campus. Normally, the industry partner could take the position to have the PhD candidate not work on projects with potential commercial value to the partner. But the industry partner’s interest is actually to develop some very interesting research that both meets the academic bar for a PhD and will be applied to improve some of their production processes.
We’re hopeful that this is the first of many of these PhD candidates to come through the university so we can be seen as a great partner for providing what for them is an amazing employee benefit—to be able to work in industry and get your PhD. At the same time we’re providing the faculty advisor with resources not currently available at the university and they see their expertise applied in an industrial process. It is a great opportunity for both entities.
We have several of these unusual relationships that we build and wonder, are they unique? I’m sure they are not unique. And that’s also where UIDP membership is going to be beneficial to us, because although it may be the first time for UVM—and the first time the industry partners are looking at this, but you can be pretty sure that somebody out there has done this before and is able to assist to work through these issues.
UIDP: What’s an interesting fact about UVM that people may not know?
Farewell: One of the things I think is really compelling about UVM is literally written in stone. There are granite benches in front of the student union that are engraved with the words respect, integrity, innovation, openness, justice, and responsibility, where students and faculty see them every day. These values stretch all the way back to UVM’s founding. We were the first institution of higher education to declare public support for freedom of religion and the first university to admit women and African Americans into the academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa. That’s particularly relevant today, and something UVM can be very proud of.