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March 3, 2021

UMaine System unveils moves to boost research commitment, drive innovation

Dannel Malloy walking with students (all are masked) File photo / Courtesy, University of Maine System University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy, shown here with students, called for expanding and better coordinating research across the University of Maine Sytem.

The University of Maine System on Wednesday strengthened its commitment to research via a request for expanded roles for University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy and others.

Under the plan, Ferrini-Mundy will take on an additional leadership appointment as the UMaine System Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation. She has been asked to take on the extra title by UMaine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy.

Wednesday's announcement underscores that the appointment formalizes the work the UMaine president will be leading, to make the school's research infrastructure accessible to and supportive of all universities in the system and faculty. Ferrini-Mundy was formerly chief operating officer at the National Science Foundation.

Along with her additional title, Malloy is changing his Chief of Staff and General Counsel James Thelen’s title to Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Chief Legal Officer for the University of Maine System. 

Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Robert Placido’s role is also being updated to reflect the responsibilities of his office to provide the board and university leaders with actionable data to help set academic priorities, transparently assess performance and make informed decisions.

“Maine needs to perform beyond its size in the race for discovery and take full advantage of the transformative $240 million investment the Harold Alfond Foundation is making in our universities,” Malloy said in Wednesday's news release.

We also need to expand and better coordinate research UMS-wide," he added. "We are going to make the most of these competitive advantages to drive innovation, create jobs and expand economic opportunity in our state.” 

Increase in R&D investments

Wednesday's announcement comes ahead of the release of the fiscal year 2020 draft Maine Economic Improvement Fund Annual Report, presented to the University of Maine System Board of Trustees' Finance, Facilities and Technology Committee.

It details how $17.35 million in coordinated state research leveraged $92.4 million in federal and private-sector grants and contracts, a 5.3-to-1 ratio. The investments and external contracts support hundreds of faculty, staff and students working on projects funded by the Maine Economic Improvement Fund, which was established by the Legislature in 1997.

In all R&D areas including sectors supported by the fund, UMaine saw a 66% jump in research and development expenditures over the past four years. UMaine researchers also generated a record $125.2 million in total external funding in fiscal year 2020.

A UMaine System spokesman told Mainebiz that the larger dollar amount represents all external grants and contracts, and that the $92.5 million leveraged by the Maine Economic Improvement Fund is part of that.

Speaking to the bigger picture, Ferrini-Mundy said, “Our world-class scholars and researchers, and the students working with them, are among Maine’s most important resources."

She added: “Every day we work with our partners in the federal delegation, state government, stakeholders and donors from across the globe to provide our faculty and research students with the resources, facilities and support they need to drive innovation for Maine and pursue discoveries that can change the world.”  

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