Achieving Distinction Initiative funding announced



TO: Faculty and staff
FROM: Provost Mike Sherman and VP George Newkome
DATE: Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012
RE: New funding for innovation

We are pleased to announce today the recipients of the Achieving Distinction Initiative funding, a program that is designed to move the University closer to achieving the strategic goals outlined in Vision 2020.  This collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to investment, inspired by the report of an ad-hoc Faculty Senate committee in May 2011, was enabled by a University of Akron Board of Trustees commitment of $2 million annually to distinctive programs that encourage collaboration across disciplines and departments as well as provide innovative solutions to regional and global problems. 

We evaluated proposals on the basis of several parameters, including likelihood of success over a short period of time (less than five years) to enhance UA’s growth as a research university and its impact on the region.

The Achieving Distinction proposals to receive funding are:

A biomimicry research and innovation initiative that brings together the resources of the departments of biology, polymer science, mechanical engineering, and the school of art to lead the region in “sustainable innovation, both economically and educationally, powered by technologies inspired from the natural world around us.”  With a unique platform in the integrated bioscience PhD program from which to launch this concept, innovation is inspired by Nature.  This is an emerging discipline that blurs the boundaries between the arts, business, design, architecture, social sciences, nursing, engineering, and science.

A combination of two proposals focused on innovation and entrepreneurship in support of patentable creativity.  We are awarding funding to both proposals as a single concept because we believe they act synergistically to accelerate the pace of commercialization of UA-based technologies, and enhance regional innovation and economic development.  One proposal, put forth by the law school, college of business, and department of political science, focuses on intellectual property, business/managerial development, and public policy issues that support economic development.  The other was proposed by faculty from five colleges and eight departments, including disciplines in business, chemistry, and engineering, to create a new proof-of-concept framework for transferring university innovations into commercial successes, working with outside foundations as well as public and private funders.

We received 27 proposals and selected three of them for funding pending review and approval of detailed implementation and budget plans.

We congratulate all of the recipients of the Achieving Distinction funding and look forward to working with these teams to support their success.