published Friday, February 25th, 2011

Make research pay, UT leaders say

IF YOU GO

Gov. Bill Haslam will attend today’s Board of Trustees meeting at 1:30 p.m. in the UTC University Center’s Tennessee Room.

As university budgets shrivel, more money will have to be generated by schools’ research projects — and that means turning to private companies.

“All of our research programs, to a certain extent, have got to make themselves attractive to the private sector,” said David Millhorn, vice president for research and economic development for the University of Tennessee system.

While some college programs undoubtedly will be on the chopping block, “what we have to do is defend those programs by showing that the outcomes lead to economic opportunity in the state. You never want to cut a program that could lead to more economic activity,” Millhorn said Thursday during the first day of the University of Tennessee board of trustees meeting at UTC. The meeting continues today.

Research expenditures in the UT system have increased from $197 million in fiscal 2006 to $235 million for fiscal 2010, but all that may change depending on the amount of money received from state and federal sources.

“We know that we are not going to be able to depend on the state to fund all of our research programs, but we are prepared,” said University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chancellor Roger Brown. “We are going forward with plans to try to market some of the software that has been developed at the SimCenter.”

The SimCenter is a UTC research and education facility that deals with cutting-edge computational engineering.

Brown sees UTC becoming increasingly important in the development of alternative sources of energy, including a collaboration with UT-Knoxville in training students on nuclear energy.

The main concern for the UT system is budget uncertainty, said Kurt Schlieter, associate vice president and director of federal relations.

“It’s making sure we have funding for research and student aid at an adequate level,” he said.

Among the possibilities, he said, is a government shutdown that would affect higher education.

“We have difficult circumstances financially both at the federal and state level,” said UT President Joe DiPietro.

Contact Perla Trevizo at ptrevizo@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6578. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/Perla_Trevizo.

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