Commonwealth Research and Technology Strategic Roadmap Profile: U.Va.

Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, the University of Virginia (U.Va.) was named the No. 2 best public university in the 2013 edition of the U.S News and World Report rankings. In the 14 years since U.S. News began ranking public universities as a separate category, U.Va. has ranked either No. 1 or No. 2; U.Va. continues to rank in the Top 25 among the best of all national universities, public and private.

The University of Virginia is made up of 11 schools in Charlottesville, plus the College at Wise in Southwest Virginia. With student enrollment of more than 21,000 in 2012-2013, U.Va. offers 51 bachelor's degrees in 47 fields, 81 master's degrees in 65 fields, six educational specialist degrees, two first-professional degrees (law and medicine), and 57 doctoral degrees in 55 fields.

Through its Office of the Vice President of Research (VPR), U.Va. supports programs and people that build capacity and sustain excellence in science, technology, and collaborative research in fields critical to solving international, national, and regional Grand Challenges, especially those most important to the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. In this endeavor, the Office seeks to expand selectively in promising new areas that will distinguish U.Va. as a thought leader, produce societal benefit, and transform the higher educational experience. The University places high value on its programs that are exemplary of cross-disciplinary collaboration, produce innovation with social relevance, and include a focus upon international experiences for students through research collaborations and exchanges in Latin America, Europe, and Asia to emphasize that globalization of economies and business, a trend that continues to accelerate.

U.Va. research programs involve faculty and students at all levels (graduate and undergraduate) and encompass:

  • Medical research, innovation, and healthcare delivery;
  • Information technology, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, aerospace, energy, and environment;
  • Sustaining and improving national security and programs addressing sustainable resources and infrastructure (water and air quality, transportation and energy systems, information networks, infrastructure, and cities and regions which are resilient to natural and other disasters); and
  • Healthy and affordable housing.

Its research programs strive for major gains in economic prosperity across these and other economic sectors through translation of research into intellectual property (IP), spin-out of high value companies, licensing of IP, and creation or strengthening of economic vitality across Virginia, including in areas which endure economic distress such as Southside and Southwest Virginia.

Research Innovation, Industrial Relevance, and Representative Accomplishments

Recent research and commercialization-related activities and achievements include:

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

  • U.Va. launched the Entrepreneur-in-Residence initiative, bringing a seasoned executive with experience in launching and securing funding for startup companies to work with high potential U.Va. projects and innovators.
  • U.Va. launched a new business model and revenue sharing formula to better align the newly re-branded U.Va. Licensing and Ventures Group as a service and business development-oriented commercialization office (rather than as a revenue center), contributing to state and national policy development in innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology transfer.

Relevance to Major Industrial Sectors

  • Life Sciences - pharmaceuticals for cardiac care, biomedical devices for imaging (e.g. cancer, neurology), telemedicine to rural areas of Virginia, and diabetes.
  • Nanotechnology - Institute for Nanoscale and Quantum Scientific and Technological Advanced Research (nanoSTAR): research, education, and commercialization in the key areas of electronics, biomedicine, and energy and the environment.
  • Energy and Environmental Sustainability - offshore wind energy generation and storage; catalysis for fuels and chemicals from natural gas and biomass; water quality - U.Va. Bay Game focused upon the health of the Chesapeake Bay and other major national and international watersheds; and energy-efficient, affordable housing.
  • Aerospace and Defense - hypersonic propulsion, advanced unmanned underwater vehicles, and cellular materials for force protection.
  • Information Technology - wireless sensing and control, cyber security, wireless health monitoring, and Big Data.
  • Advanced Manufacturing - major support to Southside Virginia housing industry to develop the best manufacturing practices for automated, innovative, cost-effective, and energy efficient housing systems for disaster recovery and affordable housing.
  • Big Data - development of analytical approaches, tools, and systems support decision processes involving complex, ultra large volumes of data from disparate sources, in support of financial, healthcare, information technology, computer simulation and visualization, manufacturing, transportation, climate and weather, and energy and environment sectors of the economy.

Examples of Recent U.Va. Research Accomplishments

  • i6 Challenge Grant award (U.S. Department of Commerce) for the Virginia Innovation Partnership led by U.Va. and involving Virginia universities and community colleges; this was one of only seven multi-institution initiatives to win federal funding to bring together universities, community colleges, corporations, investment capital, and other resources to drive promising research discoveries forward.
  • Opening of the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), involving U.Va. and other Virginia universities, community colleges, and major industrial partners.
  • Virginia Nanoelectronics Consortium (VINC), involving U.Va. (lead), the College of William & Mary, and Old Dominion University, and sponsored by the Semiconductor Research Corporation's Nanoelectronics Research Initiative led by Intel, Micron, Texas Instruments, and IBM, to develop next generation semiconductor materials, devices, and architectures.
  • Partnered with the Commonwealth to develop the Virginia Economic Development Accelerator ($1 million per year) to support distinguishing proof-of-concept efforts and to increase research and promote technology-based business development.
  • Established $200,000 Ivy Biomedical Innovation Fund to further research and development of diagnostics and treatments for human health issues; due to high performance, Ivy increased the fund to $500,000 in 2013-2014.
  • Received Architect Magazine R&D Award from the American Institute of Architects for design and build of first two affordable homes in the U.S. meeting "Passive Energy" standards.
  • The 4th Annual U.Va. Venture Summit brought $15 billion in capital to Grounds.
  • Authored the final format for the successful statewide Life Sciences Initiative funded with $5 million in new state funds.
  • Served on the statewide Research and Technology Investment Advisory Committee (RTIAC); U.Va. faculty/U.Va.-related companies received approximately 30% of the $3 million awarded through the FY2013 Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund (CRCF)
  • Awarded Department of Defense grant for a multi-university research initiative in cyber security.
  • Awarded a NASA Center for Hypersonic Propulsion.
  • Established a "Big Pharma" corporate partnership with AstraZeneca for $4.5 million
  • Conducted two highly successful Big Data summits - an award from Jefferson Trust to pair graduate students (and principal investigators) in different disciplines; secured ongoing annual support from the Jefferson Trust for data science projects in the Commonwealth and established curricula in Big Data topics at master's and certificate levels.
  • Established the Latin America initiative, which awarded seven post-doctoral and graduate student scholarships from Brazil's Science Without Borders program.