University looks to make most of research and discovery

Consultation aims to improve research processes and infrastructure, diversify partner base

The University of Colorado is engaged in an effort to enhance its research operations and infrastructure, as well as to diversify the entities it partners with, all with the intent of increasing revenue in one of CU’s most significant funding streams.

“We have innovative research faculty and we not only need to facilitate their great work by having an efficient and effective research infrastructure, we also need to find new partners to augment what we already do for federal agencies,” said CU President Bruce Benson. “I have every confidence that we can substantially increase the amount of research funding we attract.”

Faculty across the CU system brought in some $815 million in research funding last year.

The university posted a request for proposal in the spring to invite firms to work to help CU develop strategic direction for the initiative. It was recently awarded to McKinsey and Company.

Benson stressed that the effort will recognize the unique research culture on each of CU’s campuses and is not aimed at centralizing operations.

“While we can and will share best research practices across the CU system and continue cross-campus collaboration, we also are mindful that one size will not fit all,” he said. “Solutions have to be campus based.”

A team that included campus chancellors selected McKinsey, a global management consulting firm that works with businesses, governments and institutions, said Dr. Laura Simon, who is coordinating the effort. She most recently served in the Office of Corporate Alliances at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

“This project is a great way for CU to leverage its intellectual capital and create what is essentially an innovation machine,” Simon said. “We are working to build a new business model within the university that takes advantage of the significant expertise among our research faculty and their work in areas important to the state and nation, including energy, health care, aerospace and medical devices, among others.

“Succeeding at this effort should help differentiate CU as the institution of choice for retaining and recruiting top faculty, and an academic partner of choice for research innovation with government and other research partners.”

The effort will look for faculty to bring forward ideas that would be attractive in sectors where the university does not have a particularly large research funding footprint, such as industry and philanthropic organizations. It also aims to cut red tape and improve research processes.

Simon said one of the facets of the initiative is a series of Pathfinder Projects, efforts from each campus that will be used to glean perspective about the challenges inherent to CU’s current research environment and provide insight into solutions that will lead to process improvement, she said. They will also help inform the university’s comprehensive research vision.

Benson said the project may also allow CU to increase the return on its intellectual property. The overall focus on increasing revenue generation is driven in large measure by threats to federal and state funding, he said.

“Over the past several years we have worked to bring efficiency and effectiveness to all our operations, particularly those that generate revenue,” Benson said. “This initiative is the latest step in that effort and perhaps one of the most important.”

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