A $20 million earmark in the state budget will allow Wright State University to set up a statewide network to score a bigger slice of federal research funding.
Wright State Applied Research Corporation will use most of the money this year and next to set up “centers of excellence” at universities across Ohio, each catered to meet specific research needs laid out by NASA and the Pentagon.
WSARC Director Dennis Andersh said Wright State, Ohio State and Cleveland State crafted the plan after talking with officials from Air Force Research Laboratories, the National Air and Space Intelligence Center — both at Wright Patterson Air Force Base — and NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
“They said these are our top priorities for investment in research for the next 10 to 20 years,” he said. “The concept was how do you take private universities, public universities, community colleges and link them across the state to better support Wright Patt and NASA.”
The potential payoff is huge.
Andersh said the model is based on the Alliance for Human Effectiveness and Advancement, (AHEAD), which Wright State created to court human performance research at Wright Patterson. Andersh said that effort has created 575 jobs across Ohio, facilitated $167 million in research contracts and fostered $150 million in private sector investment.
The effort was focused statewide, he said, but about 60 percent of the work went to this region.
The Federal Research Network will include AHEAD at WSU, as well as a power and propulsion center at Ohio State, a materials and manufacturing center at the University of Dayton, an energy storage and integration center at Case Western Reserve University, a command and control center jointly at Wright State and Ohio State, and an advanced communications and targeting center at Ohio University.
Ohio public and private researchers received $11.8 million in Air Force Research Lab contracts in fiscal year 2014 out of a total of $277.3 million nationwide.
The state earmark requires a $4 million match from universities and private sector partners. In addition to the money that went to WSU, Ohio State received $5 million for this effort.
“This is huge,” said state Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, who put the $20 million provision in the state budget. It grew to $45 million in funding before it was cut down in conference committee to its current size — the largest higher education earmark in the budget.
“They’ll see the return on investment is going to be significant,” Perales said.
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