By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Victoria Hirschberg told attendees at Friday’s event for the Knoxville Chamber’s Premier Partners that her role is to be a connector between the institution and companies that can benefit from robust partnerships with any part of the University of Tennessee (UT) System.
The 10-year veteran of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) joined UT as Assistant Vice President for Research, Outreach and Economic Development in mid-August (see technovation.biz article here) and clearly has hit the ground with the same energy she exhibited as ECD’s Business Development Director.
During the hour-long session held at UT, Knoxville’s Institute for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing, Hirschberg made a brief presentation but spent most of the time answering questions from attendees.
“EVs (electric vehicles) are a big part of what I’m working on right now,” she said. That’s not surprising given the emergence of the Volunteer State as an EV manufacturing hotspot with General Motors, Nissan, Volkswagen and the new Ford BlueOval City and her previous ECD role.
“How do we take advantage of this and spur more research and innovation,” Hirschberg observed, adding more broadly, “There’s an opportunity to tackle and solve huge problems. There are so many cool things happening at UT.”
She spotlighted the mission of the UT System as serving “all Tennesseans and beyond through education, discovery, and outreach that enables strong economic, social and environmental well-being.”
Hirschberg said her top priorities are to:
- Increase awareness and partnerships with companies, communities, economic developers, and stakeholders for innovation, support, research, expertise, and talent;
- Support the great work and create new avenues and audiences to understand what happens on all of the campuses and within the institutes; and
- Align closely with economic and community development statewide as well as local initiatives.
Among the programs that she will be overseeing for the UT System are Opportunity Appalachia, an entrepreneurial initiative focused on downtowns and rural areas, and the RevV Voucher Manufacturing Innovation Program funded by the State of Tennessee in partnership with UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
In the end, Hirschberg described the goal as giving “students, faculty and citizens in Tennessee better opportunities.”