In all, 18 academic institutions across the nation were awarded the ART funding, which totaled more than $100 million.
“NSF endeavors to empower academic institutions to build the pathways and structures needed to speed and scale their research into products and services that benefit the nation," said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "The Accelerating Research Translation program in NSF’s new Technology, Innovation and Partnerships Directorate identifies, and champions institutions positioned to expand their research translation capacity by investing in activities essential to move results to practice."
In its proposal, Lehigh indicated that the funding could prove transformational, especially for Ph.D. education as the university implements its strategic plan and helps students with practical questions: How do you make a business plan? How do you talk to potential investors? How do you ideate and take things from one’s intellectual world into the real world?
“Lehigh, despite the great research we do, does not have a great track record of startup companies, of patents, of that kind of translational work,” Packer said. “So we really think this is a chance for us to elevate that and start us, in some ways, on a new pathway. … We're aiming to double research activity. We aim to more than double—maybe triple or quadruple— translational work, because we have so much room to grow.”
Kate Bullard, director of research development at Lehigh, said each institution that received funding will have ambassadors who will regularly gather in Washington, D.C., to share experiences and lessons learned.
“It's not just the work that's going to happen here,” Bullard said. “But we're going to be part of a national conversation around research translation, and I think that's massively important.”
The Lehigh team intends to build an inclusive capacity and infrastructure for research translation, provide accessible education and training, and drive a culture change toward research translation throughout the university community.
To help accomplish these goals, Lehigh will develop one-credit course modules with incentives for participation, a fellows program and a summer research translation bootcamp. Lehigh also plans to add personnel, expand its existing undergraduate and graduate programming in research translation, and mentor students through career options and offerings.
Research translation will be emphasized at all orientation sessions for new faculty, graduate students and postdocs and research scientists.
Additionally, Lehigh aims to grow its involvement with Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which provides funding, business and technical expertise and other resources to early-stage and established companies to help with growth. It also hopes to utilize a Lehigh Research Translation External Advisory Council, and form external partner networks, such as a New Ventures Executives Network to lead new startups and an Entrepreneurs-in-Residence program.
“We’re at a moment of big, big challenges [in society], and the federal agencies can't fund enough to solve them,” Bullard said. “The federal government can't do everything. So how do we form partnerships that solve these big problems? It's training graduate students and postdocs to tackle these problems.”
The ART Leadership Team at Lehigh
In addition to Coulter as principal investigator (PI) and Packer as co-PI, other co-PIs are:
—Lee Kern, professor of special education and director of the Center for Promoting Research to Practice at Lehigh
—Henry Odi, deputy vice president for equity and community and associate provost for academic diversity
—Himanshu Jain, the T.L. Diamond Distinguished Chair in engineering and applied science, professor of materials science and engineering, and director of the Institute for Functional Materials and Devices (I-FMD) at Lehigh.
Three faculty members will lead primary research-translation ecosystem components:
—Mike Lehman, director of Lehigh’s technical entrepreneurship program, professor of practice.
—Neal Simon, professor of biological sciences
—Hannah Dailey '02 '06G '09 Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics
Additional members of the Lehigh senior personnel team are:
— Anand Jagota, vice provost for research and founding chair of the bioengineering program
—Lesley Chow, associate professor, bioengineering, materials science and engineering
—Andreea Kiss, the Ferdinand Thun ‘56 Chair in Family Business
—Rick Smith, director of technology transfer
—Kevin Major, research engagement officer, I-FMD
—Lisa Getzler, vice provost for entrepreneurship
—Won Choi, epidemiologist; professor, Department of Community and Population Health in the College of Health; associate dean, research and graduate studies.
—Minyi Dennis, associate professor of special education