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Boosting ODU's Impact

You've heard in recent years of Old Dominion University's progress in the areas of economic development, entrepreneurship and commercialization of faculty research. We've recently made some changes to help propel our work in those areas and create more synergy.

The University has created a Division of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. Larry "Chip" Filer has been appointed to lead it as associate vice president for entrepreneurship and economic development.

Dr. Filer has been an energetic faculty member here since 1998, participating in a variety of Old Dominion and state initiatives, including the State of the Region and Commonwealth reports and the Commonwealth's GO Virginia program. He will report to Vice President Morris Foster in ODU's Office of Research.

Increasingly, regions are relying on universities not just to supply skilled graduates for their workforces, but also to provide innovative solutions to tough problems that are inhibiting economic growth.

Old Dominion has risen to the challenge.

In my President's Corner in January, I discussed two initiatives organized by Old Dominion that were recently approved for more than $1.2 million in funding in the GO Virginia program. They involve cybersecurity and digital shipbuilding, which hold enormous potential for job growth.

Last year, stock shares worth nearly $42 million were transferred to Old Dominion and its bioelectrics researchers, representing the largest commercialization success in the University's history, as well as the biggest for a Virginia institution that year. More important than the benefit for the researchers is the enhanced ability to bring the multiple advantages of bioelectrics research to the public, from fighting cancer to improving cardiac procedures.

Our reorganization will accelerate these types of breakthroughs and leverage our strength in targeted areas.

For instance, the University's multidisciplinary Resilience Collaborative, which grew from our path-breaking work in sea level rise, is another area with significant potential for commercialization. We also plan to expand entrepreneurship programs in our successful maritime, ports and logistics management area.

The new division led by Dr. Filer will oversee our regional economic development programs, run by Marty Kaszubowski, as well as the Strome Entrepreneurial Center on campus and innovation centers in local cities, directed by Nancy Grden. All of these efforts have been strong influences for good within the University and externally. Our new structure will make them even more effective.

The Strome center, which has focused on helping students and professors, will now be open to businesspeople. We expect the interactions between students and entrepreneurs will be mutually beneficial.

In 2016, ODU launched the Innovation Center in downtown Norfolk, in conjunction with the city, to provide a collaborative space for startup owners. We plan to open more Innovation Centers across the region to share our expertise with the community.

Innovation. Enterprise. Entrepreneurial. Those words have been at the core of our mission in the 21st century. This reorganization will allow us to sharpen our focus on them to produce greater impact in Hampton Roads and beyond.

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