As we approach the mid-point of the 2015 Louisiana Legislative Session, I believe we can all agree that much remains at stake for higher education. That is why the recent Public Affairs Research Council report on university research was both troubling and enlightening. It was problematic because much of the data was old and not reflective of major strides made in recent years. It also did not accurately demonstrate LSU’s impact and influence on research, innovation and economic development through its combined research arms. The study did, however, shine a rare and much-needed spotlight on the role of university research in Louisiana — a critically important function threatened by potential budget cuts.
Basic research has resulted in many things we take for granted in our day-to-day lives — even the ever-present iPhone. Recently, LSU implemented the LIFT2 program to accelerate the transfer of faculty research from lab to market. In March, 14 new projects ranging from the development of new cooling materials and enhanced energy extraction to health advances in HIV, were supported by the program — each of which has significant implications for areas important to our state.
More than half of the Louisiana’s R&D comes from universities. This makes the partnership between business and higher education even more important. LSU boasts a diversified and highly regarded nexus of research expertise that has allowed us to leverage our expertise into many successful public-private partnerships, including IBM and EA. LSU’s Louisiana Business and Technology Center has generated more than 10,000 jobs since its inception 26 years ago. In short, we contribute a significant amount to the Louisiana economy — $3.9 billion, to be exact.
Aside from generating discoveries and building our economy, LSU also acts as a magnet, keeping Louisianians in-state and attracting talent from outside our borders. We show a return of $5 for every $1 the state invests in us. And we have impact in every parish of the state. Our researchers help diversify crop species and ensure the safety of our seafood industry. They lead the way in fighting obesity and diabetes, which impact 30 percent and 10 percent of our citizens, respectively. And our physicians and students not only advance treatments for cancer and other such diseases, but also go out into the communities to make sure the people who need it most have access to medical care, making us good stewards of both Louisiana’s money and its people.
In summary, LSU research plays a major role in every facet of our culture and economy. But without state support, expanding our impact on Louisiana is impossible. We feel confident that we will be able to continue our mission of providing solutions to the problems facing this great state.
Kalliat T. Valsaraj
LSU vice president of research & economic development