The Interview: Shashank Priya
How do partnerships between the UMN Corporate Engagement Center and local businesses impact the community?
The CEC connects Minnesota-based, national, and international businesses to the proper researcher or to the resources and support they need to partner with us. Boston Scientific, Medtronic, Pepsi Co., Cisco—these and other companies collaborate with us in achieving different objectives, such as accessing talent, co-locating or licensing university technology. Each year we bring in more than $1 billion in external research awards. That research has broader impacts. Academic patents licensed to industry increased U.S. industrial gross output by up to $1.9 trillion and supported up to 6.5 million jobs over 25 years, according to one study, so the research we conduct at universities leads to developing jobs.
Why is the University of Minnesota the perfect place to develop these kinds of relationships and opportunities?
It’s like fertile soil, where you can grow almost any plants you want to grow. Over many years, we have created a really strong foundation by investing in top-notch R&D staff and cutting-edge infrastructure. The Twin Cities campus’ location in a metropolitan area rich in Fortune 500 companies means that we are close to some of the best innovations in the world. And we are willing to take risks on a new grand challenge or problem, to invest our time and energy trying to find solutions.
How do you envision the University’s research enterprise growing and serving Minnesota in future years?
We are inspired by our tagline “Driven to Discover.” We hope that our researchers will continue to provide new advancements and open new opportunities. UMN has seen phenomenal research growth, but how do we sustain the momentum and continue to innovate? We hope that by 2030 we can reach a goal of $1.5 billion [in annual research expenditures]. In order to achieve that, we need new fundamental science discoveries to take place, large talent pools—from both national and international places—to migrate to the UMN, as a student, post-doc, or a faculty recruit, a strong pipeline of startup companies, and commensurate investment in infrastructure and support services. We must create and maintain a fertile ground for all good research ideas.