National Science Foundation Director Sathuraman Panchanathan met with scientists and entrepreneurs at the University of Connecticut on Monday, May 23, describing UConn as an engine driving discovery and prosperity.
“When I think of UConn, it should be an acronym for ‘University of Connectivity’,” Panchanathan, who visited UConn Health and the Innovation Partnership Building at UConn Tech Park, said. “Connectivity from K-12, to research, to industry. This is what we want every university to look like.”
He was particularly complimentary of 11 NSF Career Awards given to UConn and UConn Health faculty this year. Career Awards are highly competitive grants given to young faculty members with compelling ideas for new lines of research.
Research funding awards at UConn from all sources doubled over the past 5 years, from $184.5 million in 2017 to $376.6 million in 2021. The NSF provided 21% of that money.
“We innovate locally, but our impact is global,” said Interim UConn President Radenka Maric.
Panchanathan was impressed by the 5,000 UConn alumni employed with Raytheon and Pratt and Whitney, and suggested the companies start an aerospace college in partnership with the University.
“We are so grateful to the NSF for the investment you have made in Connecticut,” Sen. Chris Murphy said. “And we are so excited about a tsunami of manufacturing work coming to Connecticut,” in part thanks to UConn and its technology startup incubators, as well as the partnerships with companies such as Pratt & Whitney and Raytheon.
“Our partnership with UConn will take us into the future,” said Pratt & Whitney Senior Vice President of Engineering Geoff Hunt. Both Hunt and Raytheon Vice President of Research and Development Andreas Roelofs credited collaborations with UConn for the state’s excellence in complex integrated systems, combustion research, high temperature materials, and advanced manufacturing.
Company founders from Skyre, which focuses on hydrogen energy and recapture, and LambdaVision, which grows artificial retinas, both credited UConn’s Technology Incubation Program (TIP) and NSF’s small business research support for getting their companies off the ground.
“People can invest their resources wherever they want. When they choose to invest with us, that really says something,” said UConn Board of Trustees Chairman Daniel Toscano.
State lawmakers, including senators Cathy Osten, Derek Slap, and Tony Hwang, and representatives Kate Farrar and Jaime Foster, attended the event in person or virtually, as well as U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Representatives Joe Courtney and Rosa DeLauro.
“We’re at an inflection point” in the US, and supply chain weaknesses could damage the economy if we do not address them, Courtney said. The talent, innovation and startup businesses generated by UConn’s collaboration with the NSF are part of the solution, the lawmaker said. “We’ve got important work to do.”