The online magazine of the University of Texas System
How the UT System is Keeping Texas Competitive Today and Tomorrow.
In simplest terms, what is the Competitiveness Initiative?
The University of Texas System needed to enhance what we call our research capacity. When you have research capacity, you have the ability to go out and obtain other kinds of funds, particularly if your research capacity is state of the art and at the highest levels of what can be done. Research capacity can be lots of things, but principally itís facilities and most of the Competitiveness Initiative is for funding such state-of-the-art facilities. Ultimately, itís the people weíre after — because without the people, those facilities donít do very much for you.
It sounds like those people are mostly scientists and engineers?
It can involve lots of other people, because we know that innovation — and innovation is what weíre really after in the end — also involves taking the research discovery and moving it through what we call the commercialization pipeline. That takes a number of people from different aspects of business. It takes everyone to make the whole Competitiveness Initiative work, even though itís centered on science and technology.
Does the state have a part in this along with the federal government?
Texas has contributed very significantly, through its Emerging Technology Fund and other programs. For example, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas is a state program that will enhance our Competitiveness Initiative. Thatís going to be approximately $300 million a year for 10 years, or $3 billion — an enormous program. Weíre already one of the world leaders in cancer research; certainly the UT M. D. Anderson Cancer Center is the best in the world. With this new program we will be the international leaders in cancer research, so this is another tremendous addition to the initiative.
Are other university systems doing anything on the scale of UTís Competitiveness Initiative?
Not that I know of. Universities are always trying to expand their research capacity, and today this focuses particularly on the university-industry relationship. I agree that it should, because the growth of research capacity around the country has been outstripping the ability to obtain federal funding. The university must develop a much stronger interaction with industry, which is providing research dollars at a rate that can match the growing research capacity. The Competitiveness Initiative incorporates this thinking about industryís role, but also does much more. Ultimately itís in a class by itself.
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