AMHERST, Mass. - A new Office of Industry Liaison and Economic Development (ILED) has been created to improve the relationships between industry and the research community of the University of Massachusetts. Frederick W. Byron Jr., interim vice chancellor for research at UMass, will oversee the new office, which is charged with broadening and deepening University-industry linkages in the areas of research, technical innovation, job creation, and economic development.
Jaymie Chernof, assistant vice chancellor for research and former head of the UMass Office of Economic Development (OED) has been named ILED director. "The new unit will leverage existing talents and contacts – on both the UMass campus and externally – to seek out and develop new sources of funding for interdisciplinary initiatives which benefit the campus and its partners," Chernoff says. "Research and technology at UMass can contribute more through alliances. ILED will help the campus increase resources for research, stimulate innovation through interaction, create opportunities for student work and learning, and enhance the Commonwealth’s economic vitality. We are very excited about helping to broaden avenues for external support and about collaborating with faculty and staff from other campus units to accomplish this."
ILED was formed by merging OED and Strategic Technology Alliances (STA). Byron says it will benefit from the combined strengths of the two entities and will create opportunities for new and stronger collaborations between the University and private business. "Both units were already working with industry in varying capacities," says Byron. "With ILED, we will capitalize on their respective talents, further develop relationships already under way, and take UMass to the next level of industry relations."
Marla S. Michel, recently appointed executive director of the Technology Alliances Group of ILED, brings a technical background in computer science and industry experience to the unit. She says a key goal for ILED is to make industry aware of the University’s research priorities and to build on existing relationships with corporate leaders such as Microsoft, Kodak, Procter & Gamble, IBM, Bayer, GE, Dupont, Gillette, and Raytheon. Those linkages have created national exposure for UMass research, and Michelsays she wants to expand that process. "We know that when there is a match between campus research and industry priorities, great things can happen," Michel says. "But often, those relationships need help developing because there are so many other priorities vying for researchers’ attention. ILED serves that role by keeping UMass in the forefront of industry players’ minds, by reminding UMass researchers about industry partnering opportunities, and by creating the environment for the matches to be made and the potential realized."
Another key member of the staff is Karen J. Hayes, director of Strategic Partnerships at ILED. In 2001, Hayes was the chief architect of a partnership with Microsoft, a campus-wide model whose potential value of $9.1 million constitutes the largest single corporate donation to the Amherst campus. The agreement, one component of a broad Microsoft-UMass plan, allows students and faculty to use a state-of-the-art package of Microsoft software to enhance teaching and research. The relationship also includes scholarships, grants, equipment, and financial support for key programs. "The Microsoft relationship is an example of a very successful partnership between UMass and industry," Hayes says. "As the Microsoft relationship matures, it becomes more relevant to researchers in different areas. Our goal is to replicate the success of the Microsoft relationship with other companies." Microsoft picked the UMass Amherst campus – one of only four nationwide – because of the exceptional quality of the institution. Hayes says, "We believe the time is right for other companies to do the same."
Other ILED staff members are Michael Wright, associate director at OED, and Humera Fasihuddin, director of Technology Cluster Development for the grant-funded Regional Technology Alliance (RTA). Dorothea Dowhan, Laura Miller, and Mark Snow support the unit.
ILED has developed a list of objectives to be reached by June 2003. These include the attraction of new partners, formation of an industry liaison council, development and execution of a proactive communications and marketing strategy, creation of an industry index that will help target companies more decisively, new motivations for collaboration in industry and the university, and the development of new strategies for aligning industry needs with University research. ILED will also assist campus-wide initiatives in the areas of information technology, bioscience, and engineering.
At the same time ILED will manage the second year of the $600,000 RTA grant from the National Science Foundation and seek to make the RTA sustainable. ILED anticipates much collaboration with existing units on campus such as the Office of Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property, research affairs, and University Advancement.