The University of Alabama at Birmingham and its researchers stand to benefit from three new funding sources – a $10 million pool of state funds (IMPACT) – and two new area venture capital funds, both with strong UAB ties.
IMPACT – the Investment Pool for Action – was funded as part of the overall 19 percent UAB state budget increase from $256 million to $306.5 million earlier this year. UAB President Carol Garrison made the decision to direct $10 million of the increase to create the IMPACT fund, which is designed to support biomedical research programs at UAB that have a substantial probability of enhancing economic development in the region and state. “We are proud of the pivotal role that UAB played in helping to transform Birmingham from a steel-based manufacturing center into a thriving, knowledge-based economy, and we are committed to continually growing the state’s return on its investment,” said Garrison, noting that UAB’s economic impact on the Birmingham area already exceeds $3 billion annually.
“Through IMPACT and other efforts, we intend to continue our role in the transformation of our community as our research programs develop new technologies and marketable discoveries that will change Alabamians’ lives for the better, while drawing down additional federal funds and growing new jobs,” she said.
The two other new sources of investment dollars are both venture capital funds, the $25 million Birmingham Technology Fund LLC and the $2 million UAB Concept Fund LLC. Venture capital is money provided by outside investors; venture capital investments are generally higher-risk investments that offer the potential for above-average returns.
The mission of the UAB Concept Fund, established by Birmingham business executive John McDonald and the UAB Research Foundation, is to start new companies based on UAB technology in the greater Birmingham area. The aim of the Birmingham Technology Fund, which is being funded by The University of Alabama System and the UAB Health Services Foundation, as well as Birmingham-based businesses and individual investors, is to turn research from any of the state’s research universities into Alabama-based start-up companies. The UAB Reporter will write in more detail about these funds in its next issue, Aug. 7.
IMPACT defines terms, outlines criteria
The IMPACT fund defines biomedical research investments as financial commitments to support biomedical research aligned with the research priorities of UAB, including the UAB School of Medicine’s research strategic plan, said the school’s dean and UAB Senior Vice President Robert Rich.
“The IMPACT fund will consider proposals from all UAB schools, departments, centers or divisions in accord with investment criteria, assessment standards and plans for sustainability,” said Rich. “For example, we are looking for proposals that will help us attract new recruits from top-tier institutions – outstanding researchers who have extramural support at the time of recruitment – and ones that will help us retain distinguished UAB faculty who have substantial extramural support.”
Rich said IMPACT funding must be matched at least 1:1 by the requesting department, center or consortium. This structure is in line with the university’s overall strategy of ensuring continuity in funding commitments, Rich said.
“The current climate with NIH (National Institutes of Health) funding requires that schools of medicine and universities find alternative sources of funding,” he explained. “This means that we will have to work with our states, private foundations and others to continue to have the resources necessary to maintain and expand the research enterprise.
“We must strategically allocate the resources that we have so that we are able to leverage them into additional funding,” he said. “And, when hiring faculty, we must looks at those who have very promising or established fields of study that are likely to be funded.”
Applications to the IMPACT fund, which will be accepted from deans, department chairs and center directors, will be directed to Robert Kimberly, the UAB School of Medicine senior associate dean for research. Kimberly will chair a subcommittee of the SOM Research Strategic Plan Implementation Committee – which will include representation from non-SOM schools –that will review and prioritize applications, and final decisions on funding will be made in the SOM dean’s office.
Rich and Kimberly said that for purposes of the IMPACT fund, economic development is defined as a return on investment – in at least one of several ways – beginning within three years of the investment:
• Extramural funding that brings new monies into Alabama and exceeds the IMPACT funding in committed annual expenditures
• Production of new jobs related to new research activities
• Dividends from intellectual property
For more information on the IMPACT fund, contact Kimberly at email@example.com.