The University of Arkansas has received a $23.7 million donation from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. The gift was announced at the Campaign Arkansas volunteer steering committee meeting on Friday (Nov. 9) and pushes the campaign’s fundraising total to more than $1 billion. The campaign runs through June 2020 and the goal is $1.25 billion.
“We are grateful to the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation for this investment in our faculty’s research and innovation,” Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz said in a release. “We have outstanding faculty doing work that impacts the world.”
The money, according to the UA, will support research and economic development through scholarship and innovation.
“As we aim to strengthen our research engine, this investment in highly productive research faculty, research infrastructure, and signature research areas will augment our output,” Steinmetz said. “For a large research university to effectively inspire commercialization, it must provide a culture of innovation, a broad spectrum of partnerships across the region and around the country, and targeted financial investments.”
The infrastructure needed to build and support the research engine includes strategic initiatives of both the Office of Research and Innovation and the Office of Economic Development. That includes supporting preparation of proposals for research funding, grant management, entrepreneurial mentoring, faculty and external partners and gap funding to commercialize technologies and creative works.
The Office of Economic Development streamlines campus initiatives targeting economic growth and social impact. The Office of Research and Innovation supports and advances the university’s research enterprise.
“The major factors that most limit our growth are centered on building a critical mass of faculty in strategic research areas and enhancing the infrastructure necessary to maximize research productivity,” said Jim Coleman, provost and executive vice chancellor. “The quality of faculty and new faculty hires has been strong, including an unprecedented nine faculty who received National Science Foundation CAREER awards during the 2018 cycle. Shoring up gaps in our infrastructure is crucial to maximizing the research engine and the commercialization of intellectual property. With strong leadership and infrastructure in place, the conditions for supporting the quality and the volume of faculty research and intellectual property will grow exponentially.”
This investment will support strategic, operational and programmatic initiatives in the areas of the Office of Research and Innovation and the Office of Economic Development, over a five-year period.
“Universities are powerful engines in driving regional and national economies,” Jim Walton said. “There is even more potential for our universities to accelerate economic growth and development.”
The Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation was launched in 1987 and supports education initiatives and community initiatives in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
In the Office of Research and Innovation, funds will be allocated to:
- Strategic initiatives in research, scholarly and creative activities across the university, including operations and programs under the direction of the vice chancellor for research and innovation ($2 million)
- Faculty hires in “signature research areas” across a range of disciplines throughout the university ($5 million)
- Research and Sponsored Programs capacity ($1.59 million)
- Innovation funds for faculty research with commercialization potential ($5 million)
In the Office of Economic Development, funds will be distributed to:
- Strategic initiatives, operations and programs under the direction of the vice chancellor for economic development ($2 million)
- Expansion of industry partnerships ($1.67 million)
- Technology Ventures capacity building and outreach ($3.6 million)
- Patent fund ($400,000)
- Entrepreneurship and Innovation programming ($460,000)
- Gap funding ($2 million)