Engaging opportunity Rutgers putting more emphasis on building ties with corporate community

Tom Bergeron//February 27, 2015//

Engaging opportunity Rutgers putting more emphasis on building ties with corporate community

Tom Bergeron//February 27, 2015//

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Chris Molloy has been connected to the Rutgers community in one way or another pretty much ever since he set foot on campus as a freshman in the fall of 1972.And he’s never been so excited about what the future holds.

Molloy was named a senior vice president for research and economic development at the school just over a year ago.

It’s a new position at the school. Its goal: Connecting all the university has to offer to the business world, creating public-private partnerships that will help change the significance of the school and change the face of New Brunswick.

“We are creating a broad-based organization to facilitate those with strategic outreach to the corporate world so the strong Rutgers scientists and engineers can benefit New Jersey by working directly with companies,” he said.

It’s not a new concept. Universities across the country have been doing it for decades. And that includes Rutgers.

But it’s never been quite like this.

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Molloy seemingly has seen it all at Rutgers. He earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees at Rutgers. And while he has worked in the private sector, he has served as a professor, dean, provost and chancellor at the school over the years.

He credits a few factors in the past few years for creating this window of opportunity at the school.

First, there was the hiring of Robert Barchi, a noted physician and neuroscientist, as school president in 2012.

“He’s the first scientist Rutgers has ever had as president,” he said. “Dr. Barchi really does recognize the importance of public-private partnerships.”

And Barchi was brought in to facilitate the merger of UMDNJ medical schools into Rutgers.

“The merger has facilitated this is so many ways,” Molloy said. “The red tape of having two organizations trying to work together was always a bit of an encumbrance.

“Just having two legal departments always was a big issue.”

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Then there is Rutgers’ entrance into the Big Ten Conference.

“It’s a great club,” Molloy said. “It’s a very strong network of administrators. Rutgers and New Jersey are happy to be part of it because we can really draw on their knowledge.”

And, Molloy points out, Rutgers gives as much as it gets.

“Rutgers is not coming in as a second-rate institution,” he said. “Our research expenditures are at about $700 million annually. That’s right in the middle of the Big Ten schools. Our patents and licensing revenues are at $17 million; that puts us in the Top Five.”

To help capitalize on this opportunity, Molloy brought in Cherise Kent as the university’s first director of corporate engagement.

Her role: Determine what Rutgers has to offer — and offer it to businesses.

“I’m establishing a new way of approaching industry partnership,” she said.

Kent’s business background— she has more than two decades of experience in business development and technology transfer on the corporate side— gives her a unique perspective on how to do this.

“I look through the prism on how industry makes decisions on partnering,” she said. “I started my career on technology transfer, so I’ve worked both sides of these agreements.”

The key, Kent said, is finding what corporations need — and show them how Rutgers faculty and students can help fill that need.

In a number of areas.

“We have a nicely diversified portfolio of strengths,” Kent said. “Historically, we’re very strong in agriculture, but we have a nationally recognized engineering school that needs to be better communicated, and with the integration of UMDNJ, we have a much broader scope of expertise in the life science area.

“Even the business school is recognized for its supply-chain program; that’s of key interest to companies that manufacture consumer products. There’s a lot on this campus that can be communicated to a lot of segments of industry.”

And not just New Brunswick.

Molloy is quick to point out that, while the main campus is certainly the center of economic development, having strong departments at both Rutgers-Newark and Rutgers-Camden gives the university even more to offer companies.

“Rutgers is really stepping up to the plate to be the state university, which it now really is,” he said. “We want to provide this economic engine with a focus in New Brunswick, we have so much here, but it’s not just New Brunswick.

“My office has been formed to span the whole university.”

Molloy’s vision — his five-year goal — is simple:

“I would expect to have significantly more examples of corporate engagement,” he said. “There will be spinoff companies that started from technology at Rutgers. There will be a higher level of Rutgers’ scientists supporting efforts of companies in New Jersey or companies which have moved here to take advantage of what we have to offer.

“We’re looking at developing an innovation park to facilitate interaction between companies and Rutgers scientists. It’s a win-win research scenario.”

One that may not take five years to complete.

Kent, who was hired at the end of the summer and says she’s still assessing what the school has to offer and making sure it is being offered correctly, already is seeing interest.

“We’re in the advanced stage of negotiations with two international consumer companies,” she said. “We’ve initiated conversations with two international chemical companies. And we have multiple discussions going on with multiple pharma companies.”


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