NSF appoints Sarah Goforth to lead regional innovation initiative

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 174 views 

Sarah Goforth

Sarah Goforth, the former executive director of the University of Arkansas Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (OEI), has joined the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a program director in the Regional Innovation Engines program.

Goforth, known for initiating major projects like the Venture Intern Program, Master of Science in Product Innovation, GORP incubator, and Heartland Challenge Startup Competition, will now oversee the NSF Engines program. The initiative, part of the NSF’s Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) directorate, aims to enhance regional innovation ecosystems, promote new technologies, address societal challenges, and stimulate economic growth.

NSF director Sethuraman Panchanathan said it is one of the largest investments in place-based research and development in U.S. history.

In a news release Wednesday (June 26), Goforth said she is excited about collaborating with national innovation leaders and gaining insights from other ecosystems. She began the job on June 17.

“The Engines program represents a bold new way of doing science, embedded within regional economic development strategies and in close partnership with the communities served,” Goforth said. “I believe in this model and am thrilled to have an opportunity to contribute to the program while it is still new and experimental.”

Goforth’s work with NSF is a one-year detail, renewable up to four years, after which she plans to return to UA full-time. She will work remotely from Fayetteville but travel regularly to Washington, D.C., and other locations that have received or are pursuing funding from the Engines program.

Last month, the university appointed Phil Shellhammer to head up the OEI as executive director.

During Goforth’s tenure at the OEI, she achieved several milestones, including integrating entrepreneurial courses across the University of Arkansas campus, launching the annual Arkansas Capital Scan, and establishing the Dickson & Main venture capital fund.

Under her leadership, the interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship, created in collaboration with various academic departments, earned the No. 1 ranking for graduate entrepreneurship programs in the Southeastern Conference by the Princeton Review.

Ed Pohl, dean of the Graduate School and International Education, stated that Goforth’s experience and leadership at OEI make her exceptionally well-suited for her new role at the NSF.

“Sarah is passionate about helping students and researchers take their ideas and technology and transition them into products/businesses,” Pohl said. “She is an exceptional communicator who provides thoughtful and creative commentary to students and researchers. This will be extremely valuable in her new role at NSF.”

Pohl added that NSF is working to enhance the synergy between universities and industry through its programs and to bring research and technology to the marketplace.

“Sarah’s experience with the various OEI programs at the U of A provides her a solid foundation for her new role (and) she will continue to help students and researchers do similar things but at a larger scale.”