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January 30, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Two former UT Research Foundation staffers are Principal Investigators on multi-million dollar projects

Florida State University and the University of Alabama are winners in the National Science Foundation's first-ever Accelerating Research Translation (ART) competition.

Two individuals with ties to the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) are Principal Investigators on projects that total almost $6 million in funding provided by the National Science Foundation under its first-ever Accelerating Research Translation (ART) program.

Stacey Patterson, now Vice President for Research at Florida State University (FSU), is the lead on a project titled “ART: Inspiring the Generation of New Ideas and Translational Excellence at Florida State University” (IGNITE-FSU),  while Nghia Chiem, Director of the Office of Innovation and Commercialization at the University of Alabama (UA), is Principal Investigator on a project titled “ART: Fostering an Entrepreneurial Innovation Ecosystem through Training and University-led Private-Public Partnerships.” Patterson served as UTRF President as well as Vice President for Research, Outreach, and Economic Development during her tenure with the UT System. Chiem was an Intellectual Property Manager with UTRF.

The awards totaling more than $100 million to 18 universities were announced in mid-December. Each recipient will receive up to $6 million over four years to identify and build upon academic research with the potential for technology transfer and societal and economic impacts, to ensure availability of staff with technology transfer expertise, and to support the education and training of entrepreneurial faculty and students.

According to the fact sheet distributed about the FSU award, IGNITE-FSU is a transformational initiative that will serve as a connector and catalyst for the translation of products and services out of the research community in Tallahassee, FL, and ensure maximal impact on the Florida economy and beyond. IGNITE-FSU will build capacity for translational research through additional staff, supportive programs, and mutually beneficial partnerships, all geared to identify, mature, harvest, and translate ideas into impact. This will provide the spark needed to ignite a thriving innovation ecosystem that benefits the entire North Florida regional economy by developing and translating tangible solutions to societal challenges.

IGNITE-FSU consists of capacity-building and training activities specifically designed to achieve four overarching objectives: (1) enhance FSU’s translational research infrastructure through the addition and/or re-alignment of staff, partnerships, and resources; (2) foster translational and entrepreneurial talent by providing educational opportunities for faculty, students (graduate and undergraduate), postdocs, and entrepreneurs in the community; (3) establish pathways to impact through Idea Ignition and Seed Translational Research Project programs, and meaningful innovation ecosystem partnerships; and (4) develop an institutional culture that inspires innovation, celebrates inclusive excellence, and serves our community and region.

The UA project aims to accelerate the capacity for translational research at the institution, while strengthening its role in innovation in a flourishing regional ecosystem. A main objective is to foster innovation and entrepreneurial culture on campus to increase technology commercialization that is supported by training and university-led private-public partnerships. The activities of the project will result in increasing the number of inventions, patents, licenses, start-ups, and other forms of technology commercialization, generating high-quality jobs, fostering U.S. global competitiveness, and strengthening the U.S. economy. Training programs will foster growth of a globally competitive and diverse research workforce and advance the scientific and innovation skills. Specific efforts will be made to encourage recruitment of students and staff from underrepresented and minority groups.

Evidence-based training and education curriculum will be developed to continually train postdoctoral researchers and graduate students to be experts in translational research activities. It will inform how to create new and accessible educational pathways into emerging technology careers for persons interested in participating in the research and innovation enterprise. Selected translation projects that have established high probability of commercialization potential based on market needs will be supported to mature the technologies and develop proof-of-concept prototypes while simultaneously being used as training vehicles to train postdoctoral researchers and graduate students.

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