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Designing the Future. ‘Big Ideas’ for Transdisciplinary Research. November 13, 2009. Subcommittee Members. Ravi Bellamkonda, Co-Chair* Peter Brecke David Frost* Don Giddens* Donna Hyland (Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta) Marcia Kinstler Elizabeth Mynatt Jeff Skolnick

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Designing the Future

‘Big Ideas’ for Transdisciplinary Research

November 13, 2009

Subcommittee Members

  • Ravi Bellamkonda, Co-Chair*

  • Peter Brecke

  • David Frost*

  • Don Giddens*

  • Donna Hyland (Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)

  • Marcia Kinstler

  • Elizabeth Mynatt

  • Jeff Skolnick

  • Lisa Tedesco (Emory)

  • Johnna Temenoff*

  • Jerry Thursby, Co-Chair

  • (*CoE)

Related subcommittee meeting concurrently:

“Ensure Georgia Tech’s Research Preeminence”


  • Transformation from a regional school to a globally recognized research institute in the last 25 years

  • Growth in number of faculty and research infrastructure, as well as conversion of its faculty from a primarily teaching role to a primarily research role has contributed to transformation

  • GT’s size, diversity and numbers offers great flexibility

    • Strategies for the future can leverage this advantage in developing model for leadership

GT 2035

Georgia Tech has a unique, entrepreneurial, problem solving spirit

Georgia Tech should take on the challenge of significantly impacting global challenges in the areas of Health, Environment, Energy, Information and Sustainable Economic Growth

Design Criteria

  • Success in making an impact on global challenges will require:

    • Galvanizing and catalyzing GT to take on these challenges

    • GT having a global perspective and presence

    • Forming strategic partnerships

    • Creating a culture of leadership

The four ‘Big Ideas’ currently being discussed mirror these ‘criteria’

‘Big Ideas’ Summary

  • GT-Research Innovation Fund (GT-RIF)

    • $1 billion GT-Research Innovation Fund

    • World challenges: energy, health, environment, sustainable economic growth, etc.

    • Rationale: Catalyzing innovation in a bottom-up, faculty driven manner will maximize success of new initiatives

  • Bring the world to GT/Atlanta

    • Partner with GA economic development office to attract research institutes to locate near GT campus (Advanced Study Quad)

    • Rationale: Attracting new research institutes to Atlanta/GT campus will promote the GT research enterprise

‘Big Ideas’ Summary

  • Innovate in business practices for research partnerships

    • Partnerships of all types:

      • Within GT, regional, global

      • With industry, research institutes, governmental labs, hospitals, other universities

    • Rationale: Reducing barriers to partnerships will encourage large, “big-payoff” projects

      4. Nurture culture of leadership and scholarship

    • Alter resource allocation and organizational structure as needed

    • Rationale: Means to encourage excellence in thought leadership, entrepreneurship, and policy should also maintain a collaborative environment at GT

GT-RIF: Rationale

  • Capitalize on the entrepreneurial spirit that characterizes GT culture to address global problems: health,environment, energy, information, sustainable economic growth

  • Particular research directions within these broad fields should be determined in a ‘bottom-up,’ faculty-driven fashion

  • Large top-down investments without ‘buy-in’ from faculty, chairs and deans are unlikely to succeed

  • Investments would particularly encourage multi/trans disciplinary approaches

  • More likely to tolerate ‘failures’ better than a top-down, large institute model

  • Allows the best ideas to rise to the top organically over an incubation period no larger than 5 years

GT-RIF: Implementation

  • $1 billion GT Research Innovation Fund (GT-RIF) created to drive GT’s research in 5 global challenge areas

  • Multiple levels of funding

    • Seed grants, new buildings, institutes, GT-other institution or GT-industry partnerships, etc.

  • ‘Business plans’ generated in response to ‘call for proposals’

    • Include rationale, milestones, measures of success, timeline

  • Investment decisions be based on the quality of the ‘research business plan’

    • Made after rigorous peer review involving leading academic experts (external), business leaders (external) as well as top GT administration

  • Each ‘project’ has external review

    • Conducted at appropriate time intervals for the scale of the investment

    • Conducted by leading experts (external)

    • If not making milestones, ‘projects’ may be terminated/ramped down

GT-RIF: Implementation

  • Through this process, 5 global challenges would be focused on specific areas where GT has greatest potential for impact

    • Example: Personalized medicine may be the focus of health/quality of life investments

  • Fund established by a new campaign involving philanthropy, state and business investment

    • Separate from the current ongoing capital campaign

    • Used as resources gathered rather than waiting for full amount to be raised

  • If certain new efforts require new multi-disciplinary buildings, they may be co-located in a new Advanced Studies Quad within or close to GT main campus

Bring the World to Atlanta: Rationale

  • GT is a fast developing leader in research but its research presence needs to be further strengthened

  • GT will be the vehicle to make Atlanta the ‘cross-roads’ for global research by providing a pathway for global institutes/universities to have a high quality physical presence in USA

  • GT, Atlanta and Georgia gain just as they would when they ‘incentivize’ a car company to relocated here

    • Result in concentration of globally-integrated, PhD-centric Institutes and attendant workforce in Atlanta

Bring the World to Atlanta: Implementation

  • Build large building(s) on GT campus (possibly part of Advanced Studies Quad)

    • Incentivize with inexpensive space and terms

  • GT partner with Georgia Research Alliance and the GA Department of Economic Development to actively recruit new research institutes to Atlanta

    • Academic research institutes (e.g. Max Plank Institutes)

    • Institutes funded by international companies

Business Partnership Procedures: Rationale

  • Crucial difference between success and failure in realizing GT’s potential will be in execution of ideas, not just in their generation

  • Innovation in processes to reduce barriers to partnerships and collaborations will be critically important

Business Partnership Procedures: Implementation

  • Form a non-profit institution called, the “Georgia Research Consortium” (between GT, Emory, CHOA, etc) which allows the following activities to occur easily

    • Money moves freely

    • Submit cross-institutional training and research grants

    • Equity stake in start up companies formed by university faculty

    • Run clinical trials to manage participant university conflicts of interest

  • Innovate in partnership agreements

    • Intellectual property

    • Student and personnel exchange

  • Apply databases of expertise and scholarly production to facilitate intra-GT collaboration

Business Partnership Procedures: Implementation

  • Create a one-stop window or HOV lane for ‘Big Ideas/Innovation’

    • Office will support faculty group formation, development and large proposal submission for ‘big ideas’

    • Office be headed by an ‘innovation czar’ - mission is to incentivize and advocate for innovative ideas and approaches in research and education

  • Develop creative resourcing models for large research efforts involving coordinated state, philanthropic, defense, federal, and corporate fund-raising

    • Place GT in a position to receive several $100 Million ‘gifts’ over the next 10-15 years.

    • Empower development office to adopt a long-term strategy for large gifts

  • Create a GT Alumni Network for Innovation

    • Continually provide opportunities for alums to network/provide feedback based on business sectors

Leadership Culture: Rationale

  • GT has maintained its collegial, collaborative environment while becoming acclaimed in many areas of research

  • Disadvantage is that environment also creates the potential to ‘moderate’ scale of research impact

    • Reduces the intense ‘pressure cooker’ type drivers that typify some of our peer research institutions

  • Number of research disciplines where GT leadership/dominance is undisputed is relatively low for its size, resources and potential

Leadership Culture: Implementation

  • Recognize, reward and celebrate scholarship/academic achievement of faculty

    • Recognize our own through endowed chairs, professorships, GA Research Alliance chairs etc

    • Strengthen the tenure system by making it family-friendly and select for faculty with the potential of sustained, long-term productivity

  • Create a culture of leadership and research preeminence in areas of interest to GT

    • Aggressively market faculty for awards and honors

    • Institute-based awards for faculty at different career stages

Leadership Culture: Implementation

  • Practice a ‘Darwinist Meritocracy’ at all levels of GT

    • Use internal database/other metrics to measure scholarly productivity of faculty, departments, centers and institutes

    • Establish a transparent link between resources and performance with an appropriately generous evaluation cycle

    • Resource allocation at all levels have a significant component tied to ‘performance’ from faculty salary to college budgets

  • Adopt a flexible organizational structure that encourages bottom-up innovation

    • Institute management methods to encourage problem-solving at the lowest administrative levels possible

    • Institute best practices for high-quality staff hiring at the appropriate pay-scale

Further Issues for Discussion

  • If GT-RIF is created, can investment be done without internal pressures that compromise quality or direction of investment?

  • How do we transform the GT financial model such that each budget/salary within GT has a significant portion based on performance?

  • By creating a large research infrastructure, are we sacrificing our mission to educate undergraduates?

  • If we had 1 billion $$, is this the way we would want to spend it? Are these ideas truly transformative?