Wichita State University announced on Monday the beginning of a major effort to upgrade its ability to conduct and commercialize research.
President John Bardo has renamed the Office of Research Administration. It is now the Office of Research and Technology Transfer, which will report directly to the president.
He has named John Tomblin, executive director of the National Institute for Aviation Research, as interim vice president for research and technology transfer, effective immediately. Tomblin, who will remain at the helm of NIAR, has years of experience at the intersection of university research, private industry funding and government contracts.
The elevation of the research oversight office to vice president will give it greater visibility on campus and a role in setting policy, Bardo said.
WSU will also create a new “director of technology transfer” position to serve below the vice president to focus on business spinouts and partnerships.
The seeds for a robust research and commercialization effort are already there, but are operating fully only at NIAR.
Tomblin is charged with spreading the NIAR model, as much as possible, to other parts of the university.
The new strategy is founded on the premise that luring companies with the promise of university researchers and students will create more jobs and companies for the community. In North Carolina, from which Bardo came a year ago, North Carolina State University has 67 businesses and 3,000 workers on campus.
“We already do north of $55 million a year of funded work,” Bardo said about WSU. “What we are trying to move toward is a much higher turnover in our research areas and more substantial dollar value of the research, and at how to build much closer relations with many businesses and the government.”
One likely move to come, Bardo said, is the construction of university-corporate operated laboratories in a new building. WSU is seeking aviation and non-aviation companies interested in setting up labs alongside Wichita State professors and students. The building would be built in the campus’ southeast corner, replacing the Wheatshocker Apartments. The university is building a new dormitory in the parking lot south of Cessna Stadium starting this June.
“The truth is that a lot of why I was hired was the need for the city of Wichita to diversify its economic base and the need for Kansas to diversify its economic base,” he said.