Governor proposes major spending on research at Virginia colleges
|Gov. Mark Warner
Gov. Mark R. Warner unveiled a new partnership with higher education on Dec. 7 to enhance current research efforts and to attract the “best and brightest” to the state’s research universities.
Before a crowd of almost 200 people at the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park in Richmond, Warner proposed a research package of $554 million with approximately $255 million coming from the state and another $299 million in matching funds from universities involved in the initiative.
The governor’s plan specifically cites the University of Virginia’s new clinical cancer center as one of the facilities included in the new funding package that will be part of his upcoming budget. In addition, the University’s disease treatment and tissue repair research, which focuses on developing treatments for diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, was among the programs singled out in the governor’s remarks.
“This is a historic investment in Virginia’s future, one that can help save lives and generate economic growth,” said Warner, who has 40 days remaining in office. “Our state dollars will leverage federal and private funds to help attract the best and brightest scientists and students to our universities.”
U.Va. President John T. Casteen III welcomed the governor’s announcement.
“This is good news for the citizens of Virginia,” Casteen said. “We are grateful to the governor and his administration for recognizing the acute need for funding of scientific research, including medical research and development. We look forward to the opportunity to be able to take advantage of these new funding opportunities to improve the lives of all Virginians.”
Arthur Garson Jr., vice president and dean of the School of Medicine and one of more than 50 U.Va. faculty members and administrators present at the event, said he is looking forward to the opportunities laid out by the governor. “We are indebted to him for his incredible vision. Our job is to make patients and society better through research — and he is helping us to do it.”
Ninety percent of the funding will be one-time in order to “jump start” research initiatives, according to the governor. Warner emphasized the significant role that private and corporate philanthropy will need to play in “complementing the commonwealth’s commitment to support research and economic development.”
Warner laid out four specific goals:
To hire world-class researchers;
- To create state-of-the-art research facilities;
- To fund the latest and best research equipment;
- To support graduate students who represent the future of the research enterprise.
Casteen noted that the governor’s emphasis on recruiting world-class researchers is in line with the commitments made two years ago by the University’s Board of Visitors to improve the quality and level of research activity at U.Va. At that time, the board set aside $125 million for an initiative that combines the recruitment of 10 National Academy-level research teams by 2009 with the construction of new laboratory space.
In January, the first of those leading researchers will join the University faculty. Joe Campbell, a renowned innovator in electrical engineering and nanotechnology, was recruited from the University of Texas at Austin and will bring with him a $3 million laboratory and at least six graduate students and post-doc researchers.
“In deciding where to invest, we focused on research programs already judged by experts to be exceptional, and on areas of inquiry that touch people’s lives and offer real potential for new breakthroughs,” Warner said.
To summarize the state’s investments, Warner broke down how the money would be designated:
- $67 million in one-time general fund support for faculty recruitment and startup costs in selected research programs. This is to be matched at least dollar-for-dollar with nongeneral funds;
- $68 million in one-time general fund support for new research facilities to be matched two-for-one with nongeneral funds;
- $27 million for the purchase of equipment through the higher education equipment trust fund;
- $10 million in one-time general fund support for a competitive research and commercialization fund to be matched dollar-for-dollar with nongeneral funds;
- $50 million for a permanent funding mechanism for research facilities that need to be created outside the budget process;
- $34 million in ongoing support for research programs and graduate support to be matched by $19 million in nongeneral funds.
The audience for the announcement included college presidents, research faculty and legislators from both sides of the aisle. In his opening introductions, Warner recognized the legislators in attendance and said that he wanted to address his remarks to them because it will be “up to these men and women to carry the ball.”
Following his remarks, several members of the legislature in attendance praised the governor’s plan as setting “a bold direction” and holding the key to the future of the state.
Warner pointed out that, compared with other states in the region, Virginia has a long way to go to become truly competitive. But he also expressed confidence that the new initiative would allow Virginia to reach the goal of $1 billion in research expenditures by 2010 that had been set during a research summit in 2003.
Additional details of the higher education research initiative will be announced in conjunction with the Dec. 16 introduction of Warner’s budget proposal.