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U of Arkansas goes where the money is for funding — to the Athletics Department

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: May 31st, 2017

Tech transfer leaders might admit to gazing out at the football stadium on a Saturday afternoon and dreaming of seeing the massive revenues generated by college games funneled to research and innovation. Sure, universities might direct a trickle of athletic funds in that direction, but at some schools there is just so much revenue generated from football, basketball, and other sports. Wouldn’t it be great to get a substantial chunk of that money for research?

The University of Arkansas has found a way to achieve that dream, with a fund for faculty-led projects to drive innovation on campus and increase opportunities for faculty and faculty-student collaboration. Most of the funding for the Discovery, Creativity, Innovation and Collaboration Fund comes from UA athletic revenue, specifically the revenue generated by the school’s payments from the SEC Network for televising UA sports, says Laura Jacobs, associate vice chancellor and chief of staff in the Office of the Chancellor.

The experience demonstrates that such a fund can be an effective way for a cash-laden athletics department to prove its commitment to the university’s true purpose. The option might be welcomed by athletic directors beleaguered with complaints that they have an outsized share of resources compared with academic programs and research initiatives.

The fund, created by Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz, will receive $1 million per year and is expected to provide early-stage funding for 10 to 15 projects annually. Researchers will be eligible to receive $50,000 per year for as many as three years, and then they are expected to get additional funding from organizations like the National Science Foundation or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The new fund is intended as seed money for projects, and the university requires an analysis of what the return on the investment will be for the school. If federal grant money is given to the project also, a portion will go to the university as operations money, supporting the overall research activities at UA.

A detailed article on using athletics money to fund research projects appears in the May issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and read the full article, as well as gain access to the publication’s 10-year archive of best practices and detailed success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE.

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