Office of the President

Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.

Committee of 100
University and Whist Club, Wilmington
November 15, 2011

It’s great to be here, and I thank Paul Morrill for the invitation. It’s been two years since I last addressed the Committee of 100. It feels like a lot longer; I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

I do know we’ve been busy. We’re three years into our strategic plan, the Path to Prominence. Prominence is our goal because prominence accrues essential opportunities for our students, our partners, our state, our region, and our nation. We really do consider the University’s constituencies that broadly. There’s a tremendous amount to be gained by an innovative, forward-looking University singularly focused on the needs of its community. That’s our mission—that’s where we’re going. But, first, I want to talk briefly about where we’ve just been.

A Good Year
We had a good year last year. We had a great year. Like any institution, a University is its people—and our people were on fire. Richard Heck, who retired from the UD faculty in 1989, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Heck has done as much for pharmaceutical synthesis as anyone else. The Nobel Committee obviously recognized that. His method of carbon-atom bonding is used in the manufacture of maybe half the drugs in development today. It’s incredible to even conceive his influence on 21st Century healthcare—not to mention electronics, DNA sequencing, energy technologies; the list is long.

We had a Rhodes Scholar in Matthew Watters, who’s at Oxford now studying global health science. Matt’s a young veteran of several service trips to South Sudan and Haiti, where he worked extensively in medicine and public health. Back at UD, he formed a group called Students for Haiti that continues to thrive—even though Matt’s gone. The group works with a variety of NGOs, bridging gaps in their funding, so they can provide sustainable healthcare in a country still devastated by its 2010 earthquake. Students all over campus—whether they’re officially affiliated with the group or not—dedicate time, energy, and fundraising dollars to the cause. That’s a legacy.

A legacy I’m proud of is that UD was one of just two universities to claim both a Nobel Prize and a Rhodes Scholarship last year. The other was MIT. That’s the company we’re keeping. You add in five Fulbright Scholars, top rankings by the National Research Council for five of our doctoral programs, and a #8 position among the country’s fastest up-and-coming universities, and it’s been a gratifying run.

Class of 2015
This year is stacking up to be pretty good, too. We welcomed the biggest and best freshman class we’ve ever seen: 3,915 students whose average high school GPA was an A–. That’s average GPA. The students entering our Honors Program somehow managed a GPA range that spiked above 4.0.
More than 1,100 of these exceptionally talented freshmen are Delawareans. In fact, this year, we’ve enrolled the most in-state undergrads since my arrival four years ago. Expanding Delawareans’ access to a UD education is critically important to us. We’re Delaware’s university—plain and simple. But we can’t claim flagship status if the state’s students don’t feel they have a place at UD. We know the most critical economic development investment we can make in Delaware is an investment in Delaware’s people.

Commitment to Delawareans
This obligation to access fueled our Commitment to Delawareans. It’s a dual pledge: 1) Get more Delawareans academically prepared for UD; and 2) make UD affordable for them. Without question, the academic roadmap we laid out for high school students is rigorous. But if they follow it, we guarantee them admission. And high school transcripts show that in-state applicants are taking tougher courseloads—courseloads that really prepare them for college-level work.

The financial commitment we’ve made is this: We’ll meet the full demonstrated need of all in-state students—up to the full cost of tuition, room & board, books, and fees—and we’ll cap their debt at a quarter of the cost of a UD education. With a pledge like this, you have to put real money behind it—and we are.

About 40 percent of in-state students receive financial assistance through the Commitment. This year, we’re spending $7.8 million on this aid to Delawareans. By next year—when we’ve got our first full four-year cohort of students in the program—that total will go up to about $10.5 million. We then leverage other sources of support—like private gifts and federal assistance—so that, last year, the average annual aid package for in-state students topped $14,800.

This commitment to affordability is crucially important now that student debt is at an all-time high. Last year, American college graduates left school owing, on average, $25,500. That’s 5 percent higher than the 2009 debt load. And it comes at a time when new grads can expect to make about 10 percent less than the students graduating just a couple years ahead of them.

Students and families are struggling out there. Struggling badly. And taking on record levels of debt isn’t going to help them. We need to do this. We need to make higher education an investment that Delawareans can afford.

A UD Education Pays
This country has been having a productive conversation lately about the value of a college degree—and whether that value trumps the costs incurred in earning it. If you look to the long term, there’s compelling evidence it does: The latest labor stats show unemployment among college graduates at less than half the overall rate.

The wage gap between high school grads and college grads has actually widened a bit, with four-year degree holders now making 1.8 times that of someone whose education stopped with a high school diploma. Right now, these are the stats that matter. In an economy as unforgiving as this one, don’t we all believe that a great university is the one that gets its students great jobs? We believe it.

UD graduates seeking employment six months after graduation dropped to 2.2 percent last year—about half the unemployment rate among college graduates, and a sliver of the rate among recent college grads. Reported average salary among graduates rebounded from a dip in 2009 to an all-time high of nearly $46,300. Given the challenging job market, more graduates are continuing their education immediately after their 4-year degree—up to 26 percent last year. But more, too, are taking jobs with Delaware-based organizations.

We’ve had significantly more internships posted to our databases this year; we’ve had more employers come back to campus for career fairs and interest-building events; and firms are more eager than ever to partner with UD to build a talent pipeline for their companies.

For instance, last year, we began a formal partnership with one of our top hiring firms, JPMorgan Chase, collaborating on curriculum development, joint research projects, and immersive internships. Last month, we cut the ribbon on the JPMorgan Chase Innovation Center at UD, where students, faculty, and employees will work together on applied research in business analytics. Students are already knee-deep in JPMC’s global business functions—on campus and on-site.

I visited the firm last year; I met with students in the Global Enterprise Technology internship program. This is a well-paid, full-time, eight-month-long internship—there are only two of these programs in the country.  And, let me tell you, these kids aren’t fetching coffee.

With this kind of close collaboration—with JPMC’s first-hand knowledge that UD students are prepared for the complex technology environment in which it operates—the company’s leadership says it’ll up UD recruitment to more than 100 students a year. Partnership pays off.

And partnership has been a key principle of ours for a while.

The last time I talked to the Committee of 100, we’d just announced a big one. With the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance, we began a close collaboration with Christiana Care, Nemours, and Thomas Jefferson University. The Alliance’s power derives not just from the individual strengths of its partners, but from our willingness to join these strengths to meet the region’s most urgent needs: to enhance our biomedical research capacity and competitiveness; to improve healthcare access and delivery, especially in Delaware’s rural areas; and to educate the next generation of health professionals.

We’ve got four research centers operating under the aegis of the Alliance—in translational medicine, rehabilitation, cancer biology, and cardiovascular research. We host joint conferences, we join forces on competitive grants, we develop articulated and reciprocal pathways to health sciences degrees, and we collaborate on the training of health personnel.

You can’t overstate the importance of this work—certainly not here. The Delaware Valley is the nation’s second-largest center for life sciences activity. It’s the region’s #1 employer—accounting for one in six jobs—and absolutely critical to economic growth.

We’re flush with universities, hospitals and health care systems, labs and diagnostic companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, emerging and mature biotech firms. We award thousands of certificates and degrees each year in biological and biomedical sciences, and still more in pharmaceutical sciences. We’re a leader—and now we’re acting like one.

There’s no question these collaborations pay dividends. When we established the Delaware Biotechnology Institute a dozen years ago—with startup funding from the state, UD, and the private biosciences sector—it was an early foray into the kind of interdisciplinary, inter-institutional research, education, and economic development that Delaware has become so good at. Since its launch, the Institute has secured $237 million in competitive funding; it’s had an impact on 6,000 high-paying jobs; it’s generated $500m in economic activity; and it’s made us a biosciences player. Since DBI’s start in 1999, 100 life sciences companies have established a physical presence in Delaware.

We’re not squandering DBI’s lessons. This summer, we ventured again into that “perfect triangle” of public, private, and academic collaboration, the surest means to research innovation, efficient tech transfer, and sustained economic development. We signed an agreement with the Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biotechnology—DBI’s neighbor in the Delaware Technology Park—to translate University science into clinical and commercial applications.

This is critical. There’s no dearth of basic research in this nation’s universities. But there is a lag in getting it out of them. It takes more than a decade to get a biological product from discovery to market—along with hundreds of millions of dollars. And so—despite abundant and growing discoveries in university portfolios—the number of biological products actually reaching the market has decreased. We just don’t have strength in moving basic discoveries into the industry pipeline.

That’s exactly the strength this partnership with Fraunhofer is building. By sharing facilities and core instrumentation, personnel, and expertise, we’ll begin closing the gap between scientific innovation and the commercial market. And, of course, focusing funds and attention on how well and how quickly technology is commercialized holds better promise for this economy than pure research dollars.

Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships
That’s the whole reason we launched the Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships three years ago. We needed to connect invention with the capacity to secure it and extract its value—we needed to build that pipeline between academic research and industry application. So we reengineered the patent procurement process—simplified it, made it less cumbersome and more transparent. We began assigning project teams to shepherd faculty and students all the way through the IP development process, providing assistance in every step, from disclosure through commercialization.

In the last fiscal year, UD’s invention disclosures jumped more than 60 percent, and the quality of those disclosures is rising. The number resulting in a patent application more than doubled.
Among universities without a medical school, we’re now in the top 20 percent in licensing income and the top 25 percent in patents issued.

Every year, we hold a reception for UD’s inventors. It’s a way for them to network, to share their ideas and their tech-transfer stories. But, just as importantly, it’s our way of reinforcing to them—and to the University as a whole—that discovery, invention, and entrepreneurship matter at UD, that we’re staking a lot on our intellectual assets and our innovative capacity, and that we won’t let either languish in our classrooms and labs.

Last year, we honored 170 inventors—faculty, staff, and students who hold UD patents: patents that will advance chemotherapies for prostate cancer; patents that’ll help predict drug target sites; patents that will help us measure the integrity of things like gas pipes, utility poles, and bridge pilings.

We’ve just had an incredible breakthrough with our grid-integrated vehicle technology, pioneered by Willett Kempton. Vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, allows energy stored in electric car batteries to be sent back to the power grid. Willett’s been working on this technology for years, and it’s gotten worldwide attention for its ability to provide storage capacity and stability to our electricity supply. In fact, he’s in Denmark now, working on issues related to using EVs to balance the country’s electricity load, which is heavily reliant on wind power.

In September, we teamed up with NRG in a bid to commercialize this V2G aggregation technology. The new venture, eV2g, will allow electric vehicles to communicate with the grid, and let grid operators take power from plugged-in vehicles during peak usage hours. eV2g will collect payments from the grid operators and reimburse electric car owners for making their vehicles available. We hope to reach a commercialization decision within 2–3 years,

UD will provide eV2g an exclusive license to the technology, and NRG will invest in the company for a proof-of-concept demonstration and confirmation of commercial feasibility. This arrangement will give UD a substantial minority equity share in the new company. Following a decision to proceed, NRG will make additional investments in eV2g, supporting the technology’s commercialization and launch.

This agreement holds enormous promise for the University, for NRG, for the state and the nation. And it aligns perfectly with UD’s interests, capabilities, and responsibilities. It’s an invitation for all of us to rethink our electricity supply-and-demand model, and to intersect path-breaking innovation with good policy and practice.

This is the kind of success story we want to replicate. It’s been exciting to see so many components come together into a market reality—the engineering and economics and policy surrounding one revolutionary idea.

Leveraging Research for Job Creation
The stakes have never been higher for universities to take a driving role in innovative economic development. Great economies used to grow around great universities; now great universities have to build them. About 80 percent of the country’s leading new industries are directly or indirectly related to university research.

And, ultimately, that means jobs—everyone’s favorite word lately. For every million dollars expended in research, Delaware nets nearly 17 jobs. Multiply that by the $134.4 million in sponsored research that UD attracted last year, and you’ve got a lot of jobs.

And that’s not exhaustive of the work we do with our many partners—like the Delaware Biotechnology Institute and the Delaware Technology Park. With them, we’ve helped create more than 6,500 direct and derived jobs in Delaware, activity that’s produced $508 million in labor income.

I see the extraordinary base of talent we’ve got in Delaware. I see our commitment to innovation and to working together to exploit it, and then I look ahead at some of the opportunities out there for us, and I know that—as small as we are—Delaware’s legitimately poised for economic leadership.

Wind Energy
For instance, the 2MW wind turbine we erected on UD’s Lewes campus a couple of summers ago is the most coastally placed turbine in the Mid-Atlantic, making it ideal for offshore wind-energy research. Right now, we’re doing the studies that every other coastal community and wind-farm developer will access—like turbine corrosivity and blade impact on birds and bats.  Plus, our agreement with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory could initiate the testing of commercial offshore turbines.

We’re building the U.S. knowledge base on the viability, cost-efficiency, and impacts of offshore wind energy. We’re getting a good understanding of the market that exists off the East Coast, and we’re working with international companies on blade design, prototyping, and testing. If we put vision and resources into becoming a hub for offshore turbine R&D, think of the jobs we could create or relocate in wind-power engineering and manufacturing.

Defense Tech
Then there’s our partnership with the Army’s Research, Development, and Engineering Command, which is consolidating at Aberdeen Proving Ground. We signed a sweeping R&D agreement with the Command just two months after I was last here. The partnership covers 17 collaborations around emerging information & defense technologies, antenna technology, composite materials, rapid prototyping, information assurance, mobile networking—everything that goes into the electronic battlefield.

With BRAC bringing about 8,000 new on-post positions to Aberdeen—that’s civilian DOD and embedded contractors—and even more off-post and indirect jobs, this is an incredibly important partnership. APG is just 40 miles from here—30 miles from Newark. And UD is the closest Category I research university to the base. We’re exploiting this relationship—for research, for education and training, for job placement, for sustainable regional growth.

Plus, UD is the lead institution on a huge Department of Defense contract to improve orthopedic rehabilitation for soldiers with serious battlefield injuries, those usually resulting from high-velocity weapons and explosives. The grant capitalizes on our strengths in rehabilitation science, advanced materials, and physical therapy, and opens up still more avenues for productive collaborations with the military.

Capital Investment
Everything I’m talking about requires investment. Of course it does. And we’re investing in many areas in bringing the best, most talented faculty to campus; in expanding academic majors with an eye on the marketplace; in developing interdisciplinary programs that anticipate emerging needs; and in building the space for this innovation to grow.

Many of you know how much UD is investing in capital development and improvement—from classrooms, labs, and research facilities to retail, housing, dining, athletic, and recreational space. It’s clearly a significant priority of ours. This summer and fall alone, we’ve handed out
111 construction contracts worth $180 million.

The highest profile capital project on campus right now is our Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Lab, a 194,000-square-foot temple to the idea that teaching, learning, and research can seamlessly interact in a well-designed facility, each component enhancing the others. Above all, we see it as a place of integration, where students learn through real-world problem-solving; where our latest research provides the content of the curriculum, and good teaching informs how we make that research accessible; where students, faculty, and professionals in different but complementary disciplines can easily collaborate.

Last month, we finished the ISE Lab’s structural support work, and the exterior work now begins, which means we’re right on track for a spring 2013 opening. The building will include classroom and teaching labs, core facilities for research teams, and space for some of the University’s best-known energy and environment research centers.

This is a sizeable investment for us—it’s not being supported with state money—but it’s absolutely essential to growing our science and engineering core. And there’s a snowball effect to this investment: Not only do you need the best facilities and instrumentation to do cutting-edge science, the best faculty and students look for the best facilities when determining where they’re going to invest their own time and effort.

So—in a very real way—a responsive, state-of-the-art physical space can draw the talent you need to spawn a community of innovation. You invest here and it pays out there.

Science and Technology Campus
That’s the idea behind another development project whose scale UD has never seen before. When I was last here, the Chrysler Assembly Plant adjacent to our South Campus wasn’t even officially ours yet. To me, it was the deal of the century—a no-brainer: 272 acres; one of the largest developable sites in New Castle County, with direct access to commuter and Amtrak service. And it was, literally, right across the street from us.

We’re starting Year Two of what will be decades of development. Decommissioning and demolition is in its final stages—the work should be complete by the end of the year—and we’ve managed an incredible 85-percent recycle rate.

We’ve developed a master plan for the campus, predicated on: promoting local and regional economic development, maximizing the University’s resources and those of our partners, and placing Delaware out in front in terms of innovative research and environmental sustainability.

The site is—first and foremost—an integral part of UD, and so we want to capitalize on the campus experience, incorporating what our undergraduate and graduate students love about college. We want an environment that helps us engage with our neighbors, and with the community at large—an environment that invites their interest and investment. We want a balanced, cohesive campus that deemphasizes the car in favor of rail systems and intermodal transportation. We want to grow sustainably, efficiently using buildings and natural systems, preserving open space, and vigilantly protecting the campus environment in the face of growth. And we want a compact, collegial
campus—dense construction, with good circulation access, open space connections, and incremental development.

Research/Partnership Priorities
Our broad plans for building out the campus align with UD’s research strengths and strategic focus, which I’ve already touched on: life and health sciences, energy and the environment, national security and defense.

Components of our regional partnerships—for example, the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance and the U.S. Army—will likely have a home on the campus. Plus, we’re planning for mixed-use buildings near the train station—offering residential, commercial and office space. It’s important to remember that we’re building more than a research park. we’re building a community, where people will live, work, study, shop and eat—where they’ll network and socialize.

Health Sciences Complex
We’ve just begun exploring concepts for redeveloping the former Chrysler administration building and the immediate surrounding area. This is the section whose prime use we expect will be health sciences. We’re planning to relocate our College of Health Sciences there. And our Alliance partner, Thomas Jefferson University, is planning its Campus for Healthcare Education, accommodating third- and fourth-year medical and health students doing their clinical rotations in Delaware. We’re hoping for a dynamic Health Sciences Complex, with a good mix of health & wellness providers and services.

Transit Development
Of course, rail service is absolutely vital to the success of the Science and Technology Campus, especially with redevelopment involving so many regional partnerships. We’re teaming up w DelDOT, with the Wilmington Area Planning Council, and with several other organizations to explore the train station’s  redevelopment: constructing new platforms and a pedestrian connection across the tracks; and moving the station closer to the core of the campus.

We look forward to enhanced service from SEPTA and Amtrak, and the launch of commuter rail service to Aberdeen, Baltimore, and DC. The next big challenge will be securing grant funds for the construction of these vital public transportation improvements.

Bloom Energy
Of course, this campus was never conceived as a closed University park. We always wanted it to be a blend of academic and private interests. So we’re excited to be moving forward with the final documentation on Bloom Energy’s ground lease. This a coup for the state, and we’re indebted to Gov. Markell and Alan Levin for all the work they did in bringing Bloom to the Science and Technology Campus. Once the lease agreement is finalized, we’ll begin site prep work for Bloom, and the company expects to begin construction next year.

It’s a terrific alignment w the campus mission, given its research focus on energy and the environment, and our bid for site sustainability. Plus, UD has considerable expertise in fuel cells, and the technology has generated a lot of excitement among our students. It’s a great confluence of interest and experience. And given that Bloom predicts a windfall of about 1,500 jobs within the manufacturing facility and including co-locating contractors, we’ve all got reason to be excited.

We’ve been fielding a lot of inquiries from potential campus occupants. And while it’s too early to know which of these projects will move forward to bricks-and-mortar reality, we’re really encouraged to see this level of interest.

Long-Term Vision
I’m not under any illusions that this is going to be the country’s biggest university-affiliated research campus. I know we’re not going to attract the most money, or be a top 10 contributor to the federal research budget. Given our size, we just can’t.

But what we can do is contribute—on a national level—ideas on how to partner with state and local industry; how to collaborate in a way that gives you the growth you’re after; how to launch a sustained and strategic program of investment and effort around sector development; and how to do it in a way that’s scalable. This Science and Technology Campus will help us provide that example and that leadership.

We know UD is a good investment. Over the last decade, we’ve doubled our external research expenditures, and we’ve made the top 100 universities in federal dollars obligated for science and engineering R&D—no easy feat when you don’t have a medical school.

Last year, the University community—our students, employees, and alumni, along with the companies we’ve helped launch or develop—stimulated $3.9 billion in DE spending, expenditures that supported more than 30,000 jobs. And every state dollar allocated to UD returned nearly $13 to Delaware’s economy.

But we can flex more muscle than that. As I said earlier, we can do a better job of translating science into invention—getting our research out of the lab and into the marketplace. We can better incubate entrepreneurship in Delaware, stimulate people’s creativity, supply them a tight network and venture capital to coax it along, and offer the risk-takers full-lifecycle support.

We can help employers by supporting startups and offering workforce training and management counseling. We can cultivate still more collaboration with Delaware’s public, private, and academic partners. As I said, Delaware “does” partnership better than any other state.

And, of course, there’s education—as a land-grant university, our most fundamental obligation to economic development. An educated, entrepreneurial population is what drives sustainable economic growth. We can continue opening access to a UD education, so that no one’s cut out of the 21st Century economy. We can ensure our graduates are prepared for the industries that will propel us forward. And we can nurture the students who will contribute to a thriving Delaware, and invest themselves in our strength and prosperity.

Thank you.

  • University of Delaware   •   Newark, DE 19716   •   USA
    Phone: (302) 831-2792   •   © 2013