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President Broderick Urges Further Partnerships Between Business and Higher Ed

By Joe Garvey

President John R. Broderick told attendees of Hampton Roads Chamber Strome Business Series luncheon Wednesday that research generated by Old Dominion University and other institutions of higher education can be a key driver in growing and diversifying the regional economy.

"Innovations do come from research institutions," he said. "And if that innovation is coming, then we're going to see the kind of economic growth that I think all of us want to see, especially in Hampton Roads, as we continue to try to find those ways to diversify our economy and try to rely a little bit less on what we all know is sometimes an overdependence on the federal side of things."

Broderick noted that Hampton Roads is among the top 10 regions in the United States for federal spending overall - including more than $23 billion from the Department of Defense annually - but the vast majority that money is dedicated to operating expenses rather than research and development.

He said the key is to leverage more of that federal money into innovation, and that ODU is an academic partner that is critical to making that happen.

"We need to put more investment into how we leverage the power of research institutions," he said. "A number of things we've done on the regional side are now being parlayed into having a partnership with other parts of the Commonwealth, which is exactly what we need to do. There's certainly no borders on the number of these initiatives."

As an example, he pointed out Jefferson Lab's bid for the $2 billion Electron-Ion Collider, which will open the door to a novel universe of technologies at scales much smaller than nano particles.

"It's not only big for the Peninsula," he said. "It's certainly big for all of us in Hampton Roads. It has a huge upside for the Greater Richmond area. And so to see everybody kind of involved in that and recognizing this has a much larger touchpoint than what we've ever envisioned. It's another example of how we can go further than just saying Hampton Roads."

He cited the ways ODU has commercialized its research, including in the areas of SmallSats, spaceflight and autonomous vehicle sectors; cybersecurity; coastal resiliency; offshore wind; and maritime and port innovation. He also noted ODU's most successful commercialization effort - a $41.6 million stock payoutfor Pulse Biosciences, a company created to pursue cancer-fighting discoveries at the Frank Reidy Research Center for Bioelectrics.

Broderick stressed the need for deeper collaboration between businesses and university research centers. He urged those in attendance to engage university researchers and students for unique perspectives and to consider reviewing intellectual property portfolios to generate innovations.

"There is an expectation and a huge opportunity for higher education institutions to not only be a player in partnership ventures but, candidly, to be a leader," he said.

Jeff Tanner, dean of the Strome College of Business, noted that 40 students from the college attended the session.

"If you want to stop the brain drain (from the area), send your children to ODU," he said. "We're ready to help you grow your business so you can hire more of our students."

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