Pitt's chancellor sees larger role for university within community
February 12, 2016 12:00 AM
University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher
Pitt chancellor Patrick Gallagher
By Kris B. Mamula / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The University of Pittsburgh’s future includes an expanded partnership with the region’s corporate community, chancellor Patrick Gallagher said Thursday, brushing aside any suggestion the university has been a difficult place for entrepreneurs.
The new Pitt is a place where the commercialization of faculty ideas and collaborative ventures with the business community are very much part of the university’s DNA, he said at a luncheon Thursday at the Duquesne Club, Downtown. The university’s reputation for being risk-averse in spinning out new businesses is past.
“It’s not about risk aversion; it’s about smart risk management,” Mr. Gallagher said at a luncheon sponsored by the Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association, a Bridgeville-based educational and advocacy group.
Mr. Gallagher, 52, staked out Pitt’s emerging role at a time when government research money for universities has been flat and academic centers nationwide are looking for new ways improve the student experience, boost the local economy and create new sources of revenue. The former director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology came to Pitt about 18 months ago with the goal of eliminating internal barriers to a more robust relationship with Pittsburgh’s entrepreneurial community.
Also speaking at the luncheon was Marc Malandro, founding director of Pitt’s Innovation Institute.
Pitt faculty member have long complained about the difficulty in commercializing ideas and research, but there have been signs of change under Mr. Gallagher’s direction: a collaboration with Dublin-based Shire Pharmaceuticals that will fund research work to find cures for rare diseases; creation of a $1 million fund for very early stage product commercialization; and a reworked agreement with hospital network partner UPMC meant to speed joint research and replace a pact signed in 1996.
Greater participation in the region’s entrepreneurial community was initially met with pushback from faculty, who called the move the “commercialization of higher education,” Mr. Gallagher said Thursday. Opposition has since dissipated, but he said he was surprised by the initial reaction.
“I was surprised because I didn’t view it that way,” he said. Since then, there has been a growing interest in knocking down these divisions, he said.
“This isn’t a case of trying to replicate Silicon Valley. This is about making the world a better place through knowledge.”
Kris B. Mamula: email@example.com, 412-263-1699.
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