Texas Universities Boost Business, Research, Training

Higher education keeps Texas commerce, research thriving.

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Numbers don’t lie, and when it comes to Texas' colleges and universities, they speak a very positive truth. Texas Colleges and Universities Contribute to Economy The state has upward of 200 institutions of higher education, a roster ranging from strong local community colleges to the University of Texas and Texas A&M networks. Colleges and universities tackle everything from workforce training to breakthrough research and development, and from technology transfer to well-trained graduates it all finds its way into the workforce. “The universities play a role in job development in that they provide a pathway for employees to continue their education, and they also are an attraction for potential employers when they are looking at an area for relocation,” says MacGregor Stephenson, assistant commissioner of academic affairs and research for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Partnerships, Degree Programs in Texas On the research and development side, Stephenson adds, Texas universities continue to put together cutting-edge degree programs across a spectrum of fields, from life sciences to energy to engineering, and faculty research drives innovation and business creation in the surrounding communities. "The industries that spring up can help guide that research, and the curriculum, by providing direction in terms of what they need," he says. "It’s a symbiotic relationship between business, industry and higher education here, and we have all the components to meet current and changing needs through good, strong cooperative partnerships.” The importance of that "town and gown" relationship can’t be emphasized enough, says Dr. Steven Nichols, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering, holder of the Chair of Free Enterprise and director of the school’s Advanced Manufacturing Center. “We are able to commercialize our technology, and by doing so have created new jobs and helped save lives,” Nichols says. “Our business incubators are having a real impact, and we are now working on building a collaborative effort between all our colleges on campus, including creating intellectual property clerkships for law students, so that we can get even more involved with transfer and commercialization.” Rice University in Houston has become a national leader in tech transfer, and stands as a model for other Texas institutions as they look to expand their own programs, says Jim Coleman, vice provost for research. “We’ve only been doing tech transfer for a little more than 10 years, but we have become a hot spot for nanoscience and nanotechnology,” Coleman says. “Our faculty is disclosing inventions at an extraordinary rate, and we have been ranked first in the country in industry-impact factor, or how our patents are driving other new patents.” The university’s research has been utilized in 40 startup companies to date, says Mary Lynn Fernau, director of marketing for the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, with more coming all the time. “Texas is the third-largest state for venture capital, and we are helping to build that by helping and highlighting these tech-transfer companies,” Fernau says. The university’s efforts focus on medium and large companies in the marketplace as well as startups, so it can help companies at all levels of development, says Nila Bhakuni, director of the university’s Office of Technology Transfer. “We’ve been making a stronger effort to balance that portfolio in terms of licensing to companies of all sizes, so we have a better chance of commercializing our technology,” Bhakuni says. “And with the breadth of technology that we do have, we’re going to be successful well into the future.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Nan Bauroth started her career as Director of Advertising and Promotion for Doubleday Publishing. From there she move... more

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Fri, 10/27/2017 - 19:55