Nov. 9, 2007
From staff reports
In the days and weeks surrounding the recent 50th anniversary of Sputnik's launch, significant attention was paid to how an object the size of a basketball triggered investments in research and science education that laid the groundwork for the high-tech economy of the 21st century.
With a similar goal in mind, state officials hope $250 million invested over the course of two years in university science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medical (STEMM) programs will replicate some of the transformational effects of Sputnik-era investments. In particular, they see the Ohio Innovation Partnership Program, provided for in the state's biennium budget passed in June, as a way to help rebuild Ohio's economy.
"Through the Ohio Innovation Partnership, we hope to harness our resources and build on regional economic strengths to make strategic investments in areas where Ohio has real potential to be a leader and a destination for cutting-edge industries and top research talent," Senate President Pro Tempore Jeff Jacobson said.
The Ohio Innovation Partnership (OIP) initiative has two components: the Ohio Research Scholars Program, which received $150 million, and the Choose Ohio First Scholarships Program, which was allocated $100 million. While both programs intend to use STEMM to advance the Ohio economy, one focuses on developing a pipeline of students to support a science- and technology-based economy while the other concentrates on bringing expertise into the state to contribute to long-term regional economic development through STEMM pursuits.
Awards under the two programs will be made to institutions on a competitive basis. Proposals can consist of initiatives to be carried out solely by that school or in collaboration with other public or private institutions of higher education and for-profit and nonprofit Ohio entities. Under the Choose Ohio First Scholarships Program, a limit was placed on the number of submissions that a university could make as the lead proposer. No limit on lead submissions exists for the Ohio Research Scholars Program.
Ohio University faculty and staff in STEMM disciplines are engaged with both components of the OIP.
On Wednesday, Ohio University submitted five Choose Ohio First Scholarship Letters of Interest (the maximum allowable based on enrollment):
- A proposal to provide scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students in the emerging field of bioinformatics. The proposal involves the Russ College of Engineering and Technology and the College of Arts and Sciences along with 16 educational partners and 10 for-profit and nonprofit entities.
- A proposal focused on undergraduate and graduate scholarships for economically disadvantaged students in STEMM and STEMM-educator fields that brings together faculty from the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Technology, the College of Arts and Sciences, five partner educational institutions and two nonprofit organizations.
- A proposal to provide undergraduate scholarships tied to comprehensive academic and research experiences for students seeking degrees in STEMM fields. This proposal is centered in the College of Arts and Science and involves one educational partner institution and eight for-profit and nonprofit organizations.
- A proposal to use scholarships to recruit undergraduate, graduate and medical students into an interdisciplinary diabetes-focused education program based in the College of Health and Human Services and the College of Osteopathic Medicine.
- A proposal to create a STEMM-based undergraduate and graduate scholarship program through an Interactive Virtual Environments initiative. Participating colleges include the Scripps College of Communication, College of Health and Human Services, Russ College of Engineering and Technology, College of Education and College of Fine Arts. It also involves three other educational institutions and one nonprofit organization.
The Chancellor's Office of the Board of Regents will review the letters of interest and provide direction by Nov. 28 as to whether institutions should proceed with final proposal submissions. Final Choose Ohio First proposals are due Jan. 22.
Meanwhile, the Ohio Research Scholars Program seeks to create or stimulate research clusters that advance the state's ability to be competitive in the fields of advanced materials, biosciences, instruments/controls/electronics, information technology, and power and propulsion.
Jointly administered by the Ohio Board of Regents and the Ohio Department of Development with the participation of the Third Frontier Commission, proposals are sought under two tracks. Track 1 aims to accelerate the growth of existing clusters of research excellence. Track 2 will support the development of research clusters with the potential to become important catalysts for the Ohio economy.
At Ohio University, preparation for participating in the Ohio Research Scholars Program began during the summer. Working from the authorizing legislation and statements by Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut, the Office of Executive Vice President and Provost and the Office of Research encouraged faculty in STEMM fields to begin sketching out ideas.
"The Request for Proposals (RFP) had not been released, but we knew that the timelines were going to be tight," said Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl. "Interim Vice President for Research Jim Rankin and I wanted to spur the sort of conversations that lead to strong proposals."
The RFP for the Ohio Research Scholars Program was released Oct. 29. Rankin said he has been having preliminary conversations with faculty and staff who are interested in putting forward letters of interest.
"The goal of the Research Scholars Program is to enhance economic development in the state and region by attracting scholars with technology commercialization potential," Rankin said. "The strongest proposals will exhibit potential to create jobs and start companies in addition to having collaborations with other Ohio universities and industries."
Faculty and staff interested in submitting Ohio Research Scholars letters of interest were asked to provide a one-page description of their plan, their budget and their funding match by today to the Office of Research. Rankin said he and the associate deans for research in each college will meet next week to review submissions. The letters of interest are due in the chancellor's office by Nov. 21.
Krendl noted that the tight timelines for both RFPs meant a considerable amount of work had to be done in a short period of time.
"Teamwork between faculty in different departments and colleges, and between faculty and staff from the Office of Research and University Outreach, made it possible for us to submit five excellent Choose Ohio First letters of interest," Krendl said. "I'm optimistic about their success and look forward to seeing similarly strong letters of interest emerge from the Ohio Research Scholars process."