Chancellor: Cuts imperil research at CU

BOULDER – University of Colorado’s chancellor Phil DiStefano lauded the work being done at CU on the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, project scheduled to launch late this year and explore the Martian upper atmosphere.

Then, as the opening speaker of the Boulder Economic Summit on Wednesday morning at CU’s Wolf Law building, he warned that such drivers of innovation and economic vitality in the state are in danger if steps aren’t taken to strengthen ties between research universities, the state and federal governments, and the private sector.

The MAVEN contract at CU, for example, is the largest research contract in the school’s history at $485 million, DiStefano said, and is adding nearly $200 million to the state’s economy and adding to the state’s reputation and standing as third in the nation in terms of aerospace employment.

“This is a glowing example of partnerships between the university and industry,” DiStefano said.

But funding for such collaborations has been unstable and complicated by federal budget cuts. In addition, DiStefano cited a study from the University of Denver that suggested that higher education in Colorado could see state funding dry up completely in the next five to 10 years.

Meanwhile, he said, other countries are increasing research and development funding, making it more difficult for American universities to compete for research dollars and international students.

Despite the challenges, DiStefano said CU itself has worked to leverage its strength in the areas of partnerships with government and the private sector, making and maintaining partnerships with companies such as Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. and federal entities such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. CU earlier this year formed an industry alliance office to foster such partnerships. DiStefano last month announced the formation of a strategic advisory council of 11 business leaders, investors and entrepreneurs to guide the school with its goals.

DiStefano said CU also is on track to double its international student enrollment from about 1,500 in 2011 to about 3,000 in 2015 in an effort to internationalize the campus.


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