Message to Alumni from UC Board of Trustees Chair

Rob RichardsonThis is the second in a series of columns by University of Cincinnati Board Chair Rob Richardson, Jr., CEAS ’02, Law ’05. In February at the age of 37, UC’s former Student Body President became the youngest person to chair the board of trustees in UC’s history and the youngest currently in such a role among the nation’s research-intensive public universities. His board term began in 2008 and runs through 2016.



Innovation Becoming a UC Strategic Advantage

August 4, 2016

Discussion about innovation often comes in the context of starting a company, putting a new twist on an old product or service, or making a lot of money through new ideas. To me, innovation primarily refers to the long, hard process that may result in those things. It’s challenging conventional thinking, rebelling against the status quo, not accepting things as they are because you know they can be better. But complacency prevents innovation, so the status quo is hard to change. We can’t attempt to solve problems with the same level of thinking that created or perpetuated those problems in the first place.

Developing and implementing a strategy to unleash UC’s enormous innovative capabilities is one of our highest priorities, because it will make our education and research assets more powerful and relevant in the real world. In the same way our cooperative education and experiential learning help build a bridge between studying your life’s work and actually doing it, our emerging innovation strategy connects our academic excellence with the need for life-saving advancements and a vibrant business community that thrives on the birth of new ideas.

UC’s “innovation journey” is particularly exciting because we’re able to do so much that most other universities can’t do. Rather than having pillars of distinction in just one or two areas, we have many outstanding colleges and degree programs that already are accustomed to working in concert. UC can integrate the efforts of our tremendous business, engineering, design and medical schools to see problems and solutions in entirely new ways. We can leverage our great resources in education, music, architecture, and the arts and sciences. We have a well-respected law school and one of the best teaching hospitals. Yet because the world is fully integrated, our assets cannot operate in silos of excellence. In a higher education setting, being truly innovative requires an aligned, university-wide agenda that all of us can see ourselves in and rally behind.

The moment for such transformative action is here. To create sustainable growth, we must challenge conventional thinking and remove our silos. The university that excels in the future must know how to be innovative, how to work with entrepreneurs and private industry, and how to best use its available talent. It’s not simply about commercializing new ideas, but rather actually solving problems in a collaborative way and making that united approach a permanent part of its culture. We certainly have the resources and the ability; we’re about to do a better job of coming together as one UC.

We started an Innovation Task Force earlier this year with the goal of creating a comprehensive strategy, structure and infrastructure for innovation. Our goal is to connect academic potential with entrepreneurial opportunities to accelerate our region’s global competitive edge. I’m honored to work with and have the support of Interim President Beverly Davenport, Interim Provost Peter Landgren, and Vice President of Research Patrick Limbach as we move forward together. As you can tell, I’m extremely passionate about this crucial topic, and I’ll share more about our efforts in future columns.

Robert E. Richardson, Jr.
UC Board of Trustees


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