Rutgers University has announced the resignation of its VP for research and economic development, Michael Pazzani, who is generally credited with making Rutgers an institution with a culture of industry cooperation.
He is leaving to return to California and take up a challenging position with the University of California, Riverside.
Dr. Pazzani’s major accomplishments can be found in the many articles that discuss his resignation, such as this one.
Rather than reiterate what has already been said, NJTechWeekly.com spoke to Pazzani this week and asked him what he feels his greatest accomplishment at Rutgers has been and what he has left undone.
“If I were to summarize my greatest accomplishment … it would probably be a change of culture at Rutgers. Now the vast majority of the university understands it is possible to get federal funding to support their research. And they look to Washington, more than looking to the state or the university to support their research.”
Before Pazzani arrived at Rutgers six years ago, “the state was richer and the university was richer,” and it was easier to get funding from those two entities. Now faculty must look to Washington for funding, and they know it’s not impossible to get it.
“In some ways, they now know it’s not extraordinary. It’s expected of a top university” like Princeton, Michigan or the University of Virginia, said Pazzani. “Rutgers always considered itself in their league academically but wasn’t quite in their league with federal funding. … I think it is now indeed competitive with some of the top public research universities.”
Speaking about the biggest project he is leaving incomplete, Pazzani said he hasn’t had the opportunity to finish establishing a technology park at the school. The university has set aside some land for InnovationPark@Rutgers so companies can move their offices or labs onto the Livingston campus and work more closely with faculty, he noted.
“The way N.J. is so decentralized and spread out, there really aren’t large ecosystems and lots of companies working together and with the university. Rutgers is probably the largest public university without a technology park, and it’s probably time for it to establish one,” he said.
Pazzani is hopeful that progress will continue on Innovation Park. “Certainly the incoming president has talked about funding private partnerships. One of the best ways to do that is to have the corporations within walking distance instead of an hour’s drive from the university.”
He said the tech park would be modeled after the University of Maryland M Square tech park and University of Wisconsin parks. “Usually they are about 100 acres or so; you can then get 20 or 30 buildings in such a park,” he said. Looking to the future at Rutgers, he added, “I’m sure my successor will be able to build upon what I’ve done.”
NJTechWeekly.com asked Rutgers for additional information about Innovation Park, which is still in the planning stages. We were told a feasibility study — commissioned by Dr. Pazzani and Margaret Brennan-Tonetta, associate vice president for economic development at Rutgers and the park’s executive director and conducted by the Battelle Memorial Institute(Columbus, Ohio) — was recently completed. Target industries include advanced computing, biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing, biomaterials and regenerative medicine, food and nutrition, logistics and supply-chain management, renewable energy storage and generation, advanced materials, ceramics, composites and nanotechnology. The park will be a nonprofit entity with its own board of directors.
The park’s full build-out is planned to be about 100 acres, comprising four parcels each of about 25 acres: one site on the Busch campus and three on the Livingston one, all in Piscataway. Construction would likely not begin until 2014 and will be a phased process that starts with bringing together, under the park concept, existing projects already in the works. The park has an external advisory board composed of industry, state agencies and local government and an internal advisory board made up of faculty and administrators, the spokesman said.