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UB Restructures Research Office to Emphasize Economic Development

Release Date: January 11, 2012

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Marnie LaVigne has been named associate vice president for economic development in the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo has reorganized its research office to better reflect the university's continued commitment to economic development.

The Office of the Vice President for Research, headed by Alexander N. Cartwright, is now the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. In addition, Marion "Marnie" LaVigne has been named associate vice president for economic development, a new position.

The changes took effect Jan. 1.

LaVigne has extensive experience in leveraging UB's resources to help grow the regional economy, serving as director of business development at UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences and the UB Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology (UB CAT) since 2005.

In her new role, LaVigne will coordinate university-wide economic development activities and oversee the following units:

-- The UB Office of Economic Engagement (OEE), which helps businesses and other community partners connect with UB researchers and resources, including workforce development training and equipment rental.

-- The UB CAT, one of 15 state-funded centers that support university-industry collaboration. Activities include funding company research and development projects that leverage the expertise of a UB principal investigator.

-- The business development team in the Center of Excellence, which houses local life sciences companies and helps organize such activities as an annual investor forum, workshops for entrepreneurs and iSciWNY, a workforce-development program that prepares Western New Yorkers for jobs in the life sciences.

LaVigne also will work closely with UB's Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR), which runs the UB Technology Incubator on Sweet Home Road adjacent to the North Campus and facilitates the commercialization of technologies invented by UB researchers.

"You can see the signs of the new economy happening throughout this community, and more fully aligning university resources to accelerate this effort is a natural next step," LaVigne said. "We have already built incredible momentum in areas like life sciences, and I look forward to expanding our work with our strong internal team of research and business development resources combined with committed community partners."

"We at STOR feel the coordination of economic development activities of UB is likely to be successful in advancing our engagement with the business community. Dr. LaVigne is well-suited to coordinate these efforts," said Robert J. Genco, the UB vice provost who heads STOR. "We feel these efforts support STOR's role in transfer of technologies and commercialization of the university's research to benefit our community."

The goal of the restructuring is to strengthen UB's role in economic development, reducing redundant programs and clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of different units that engage with industry.

Through these changes, "We are acknowledging the role that the university plays in economic development in Western New York," Cartwright said. "Having an associate vice president for economic development in place will give our community partners a clear place to go when seeking to work with the university."

This is particularly important with Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledging in his second State of the State address to direct up to $1 billion in grants and incentives to companies locating in Buffalo in coming years. That's in addition to more than $100 million in state funding that already is coming to the region for development projects through the efforts of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, a group co-chaired by UB President Satish K. Tripathi.

As state authorities look toward public universities to help build regional economies, UB is doing its part. Besides conducting research that leads to new technologies, the university trains an innovative workforce, provides technical assistance to businesses and contributes to Western New York's cultural assets.

"Economic development, as we define it, is more than the transfer of UB's intellectual property through inventions, patents and UB startups." Cartwright said. "The university supports the region's economic diversification and the growth of high-wage jobs. Through additional faculty recruitment, we will increase our intellectual, creative and physical resources, improving our capacity and effectiveness in regional economic engagement."

Cartwright, a professor of electrical engineering, has overseen UB's research operations since July 2010, first as interim vice president for research and then as vice president for research. As vice provost for strategic initiatives from 2007-09, he helped build UB's research infrastructure and foster collaboration across UB's eight strategic strengths -- areas of research and scholarship that UB is emphasizing under its UB 2020 long-range plan. He is a named inventor on several issued patents and pending patent applications, contributing technologies to such companies as TheraSyn Sensors Inc. and Graphene Devices Ltd. that are helping to build Western New York's high-tech economy.

LaVigne has spent more than 20 years creating new products and startup businesses involving innovative applications of technology in health care and life sciences across a range of high-tech sectors, including co-founding biomedical informatics companies. Since 2005, she has been facilitating technology-based economic development in her role as director of business development at the UB CAT and Center of Excellence, where she leverages the university's research and development resources to help grow the region's life sciences industry. She holds a BS in neuroscience and a PhD in clinical psychology.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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