Rob Duncan, MU vice chancellor for research, spoke at the Mizzou Corporate Roundtable event in Columbia, Mo. on June 5, 2012. Photo by Rob Hill.
The MU Office of Development and Alumni Relations invited over 200 business and academic leaders to the Mizzou Corporate Roundtable in Columbia, Mo., on June 5, 2012. The event educates alumni and business leaders in areas such as St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia about faculty and student innovations at MU. The goal is to spur economic growth and improve the lives of people in Missouri and beyond.
Rob Duncan, MU vice chancellor for research, and Tom Skalak, vice president for research at the University of Virginia, spoke at the Columbia event. They described the mindset needed to foster innovation, specifically the kind that begins at universities and starts successful companies in the private sector. Skalak noted that private companies are turning to universities for innovation because of diminished research-and-development budgets at major corporations.
“No Fortune 500 company has such a breadth of knowledge as universities,” says Skalak. “Seventy percent of innovation is coming from public organizations.”
The University of Missouri strives to cultivate research and innovation as part of its mission as Missouri’s only state-supported member of the Association of American Universities. As entrepreneurial faculty develop new ideas and technology, MU tries to build support and commercialize innovations in ways that benefit society. The corporate roundtable events help link faculty innovation to investment opportunities locally. One goal is to encourage regional investment so that economic growth can occur in Missouri.
“We want to translate what we do in research to improve our economic position,” says Duncan. “Those who can rapidly and efficiently commercialize major new discoveries will win.”
MU is awarded more than $425 million annually in external funding through sponsored research, contracts and diverse services. The university’s broad base of expertise includes ideas and technologies that are poised for commercial success. From 2007 to 2010, MU’s Office of Technology Management and Industry Relations doubled its patent production, on behalf of researchers and innovators. The MU Research Reactor Center is ranked No. 1 in America in shipping radioisotopes for health care applications, according to Duncan.
One example of MU’s innovative success is a new meat-substitute, Beyond Meat, the first plant protein that looks, feels, and tastes like meat and that has similar properties. Ethan Brown, entrepreneur and founder of the company, collaborated with MU professors Fu-hung Hsieh and Harold Huff to create an innovative plant protein to provide new food alternatives and decrease the number of animals slaughtered for food. Together, they have developed a process that has been licensed exclusively by MU. The product is being test marketed at Whole Foods stores in California and since its debut in mid-June 2012 is already seeing tremendous success.
“Missouri is no longer just the gateway to the West,” says Mark Thomas, executive director for advancement, MU Office of Corporate & Foundation Relations. “We are a frontier institution with research and innovation that has a global impact.”
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