Message to Alumni from UC Board of Trustees Chair
This is the fourth 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.
UC Creating the Hub for Institutional Innovation Efforts
October 3, 2016
Last month I described UC’s “innovation journey” and our golden opportunity to marshal our vast resources and create a sustainable powerhouse of functional, strategic activity that will benefit the university and the community we serve.
Yet innovation can thrive only when we set aside conventional thinking and remove silos that often divide the university community, thus hindering the very nature of innovation. By merging our many areas of academic and research excellence, then connecting them to committed industry partners and their real-world entrepreneurial challenges, we will become a hotbed for true, breakthrough innovation — not only in theory, but most importantly in practice.
You might think of this transformational activity like a wheel of resources, connections and possibilities. A wheel needs a hub — and we’re building one right now. Owned by UC since 1980, the old Sears Building on Reading Road adjacent to the new I-71 & Martin Luther King Jr. Drive interchange is being reborn as the physical center of our innovation efforts. It will reflect the innovative spirit that has been UC’s hallmark since its founding in 1819, as well as the promise of historic growth to come in our Third Century. The building’s first phase is scheduled to open in January; when the full facility becomes operational down the line, it will be the home of ongoing interaction between UC representatives and community partners working on mutually beneficial innovation initiatives. When we engage with industry, or when industry engages with us, it will all start here at the hub.
Specifically, such industry engagement will occur through the UC Research Institute, which will be housed in the new facility. The Research Institute serves as our front door for industry allowing access to UC’s collective expertise and intelligence. Many of our innovation colleagues, including major companies such as Procter & Gamble, will have a permanent presence in this hub, where the Research Institute will provide them concierge-level service, enabling these colleagues to work side-by-side with UC students and faculty. We will partner with members of our vibrant start-up community, such as The Brandery, Cintrifuse and CincyTech —complementing the economic ecosystem in ways no one else can, because no one has our wealth of diverse assets to elevate innovation in the region.
For UC, this new venue and our reimagining/re-engineering of the innovation process will provide a substantial, tangible boost to the “real-world educational experience” that has always been one of our primary differentiators. The collaborative projects undertaken by faculty, students and researchers in this hub will be employing cross-discipline approaches, which leverage multiple colleges in their interactions with industry and entrepreneurs. The benefits to all of UC that will accrue due to this new facility will be measured over the long-term, as we make the necessary commitment to our innovation agenda.
Innovation is a cultural thing, yet it really doesn’t require a massive overhaul in how we do business. By doing a select number of targeted things well, we will see the culture shift as a cascade of rewards accrues to our stakeholders. We need to get this right, and we will — it’s part of our institutional DNA to do so. From bringing together disparate educational entities to form the university in the 1800s, to inventing cooperative education early in the 1900s, to remaking our campus and academics over the last quarter century, UC has been at forefront of innovation in many ways. This is the latest exciting example, and it has the power to change how our university impacts our community and the world.
Robert E. Richardson, Jr.
UC Board of Trustees