LIHU‘E — To provide the best education, higher education facilities must look to industries in their vicinity and businesses must look to how they can support research universities in a critical partnership, University of Hawai‘i President M.R.C. Greenwood said recently.
By using a combination of research, academics and job-training opportunities, UH is working to create a higher education system that is supported by industries looking to be more innovative in their approaches, Greenwood said.
Through the Hawai‘i Innovation Initiative, Greenwood is launching a 10-year effort to double UH’s outside funding from $500 million to $1 billion annually to build the state’s research industry.
In the effort to do this, the university is looking to hire 50 world-class researchers over the next decade.
Greenwood spoke of one professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a member of the National Academy of Sciences who is moving his entire research operation to the University of Hawai‘i in 2014. Attracting this caliber of professor for research will have a strong impact on the entire UH system, she said.
Research programs are run like corporations within a university system as they seek out grants, meet the payroll and then provide many opportunities to build the economy throughout the state, she added.
Greenwood said the research industry provides good well-paying jobs that last a long time and researchers’ families help stimulate the economy.
“We’ve had great success in how we are trying to get people to work across the state,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood said many research universities have good programs, but they are often disconnected from community colleges. Because this is not true in Hawai‘i, it is a great advantage for everyone involved in the UH system.
“We have a system of higher education here that allows us to work with community colleges and four-year institutions all over the state,” she said.
Working on projects together across the state is beneficial for everyone in the
“We are one system,” Greenwood told the Kaua‘i Economic Development Board this week, noting that Kaua‘i Community College Chancellor Helen Cox has the ability to sit down with other administrators statewide to discuss needs and develop programs.
Greenwood said UH has received $41 million in workforce development grants, along with more than $40 million to develop IT and broadband capabilities for campuses statewide.
“Once you get that core, you then begin to get funding for support staff, equipment, materials, and then you get local businesses that also support that operation and are nurtured.”
For instance, UH is developing a satellite-launch program that will be based at the Pacific Missile Research Facility on the Westside.
KCC Chancellor Helen Cox said community college students are also assisting with applied research.
She noted that KCC already has students working with world-class researchers at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens in Kalaheo to help determine the “best protocol for growing breadfruit from determining the optimum soil and water conditions” and finding ways for ‘ulu to be used such as turning it into breadfruit flour.
“We’ll never be the lead on projects,” Cox said, “but we can assist when it makes sense for students to get hands-on experience they need.”
This is also allowing the college to develop programs such as the Sustainable Living Institute in conjunction with the state Department of Hawaiian Homelands, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and REC Solar to train students to build solar array systems on Kaua‘i.
She said KCC is able to look at what different sectors of the economy needs and design courses to meet that need by training students at the technician level or building a foundation that allows them to go on in their education plans.
To get there though, Greenwood seeks to enlist the help of industries in Hawai‘i.
“Let us help you,” Greenwood said, asking business leaders to contact her and her staff for opportunities. “We are learning to collectively take the power of what we do have and deploy it, as opposed to being more isolated. That is the wave of the future.”