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Foreword: Collaboration Breeds Innovation

Universities are marketplaces for ideas and provide fertile ground for the creative processes that produce new knowledge. The University of Texas at Arlington relishes its role as a beacon of innovation. We believe it’s our obligation to change lives, enhance lives, and save lives through relentless exploration into deadly diseases, aging, energy independence, threats to national security, and other critical issues.

Collaboration is essential to solving these problems. Not only does it foster complementary research, but the results are often better. None of the research projects featured in this issue of Inquiry could succeed without collaboration. Whether they involve professors working with each other, with graduate students, or with researchers from other universities and organizations, these partnerships produce theories—the foundational research—that will evolve into the next generation of inventions.

The opening of the 234,000-square-foot Engineering Research Building this year has spawned several interdisciplinary endeavors. Bioengineers team with mathematicians to develop a neural interface that will enable soldiers who’ve lost arms or legs to feel and control their prosthetic limbs as if they’re real. Professors in electrical engineering and biology create nanomaterials to detect a gene mutation that leads to pancreatic and lung cancer. A bioengineering-social work collaboration explores better treatment for veterans suffering from brain-related disorders, while a bioengineering-physics project uses optical tweezers to battle cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Outside the walls of the Engineering Research Building, the Cognitive Science Initiative examines mind-brain connections and includes researchers from numerous liberal arts fields as well as nursing, education, social work, science, and engineering. A new School of Architecture center that focuses on metropolitan density welcomes colleagues from the School of Urban and Public Affairs, College of Engineering, and College of Business.

Fruitful collaborations extend beyond the campus. UT Arlington is a founding partner of TxMED, a research funding program in medical technologies that includes UT Dallas, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Texas Instruments, and the Texas Health Research and Education Institute. Two UT Arlington-led projects aim to devise a better breast biopsy system and a more efficient blood oxygenating machine.

Taking these inventions from laboratory to marketplace is another component of the collaborative process. That’s where TechComm enters the picture. TechComm is the technology transfer arm of the Center for Innovation, a partnership between UT Arlington and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce that furthers technology-driven economic development.

This synergistic environment has led to unprecedented growth in research activity. The University has nearly tripled its total research expenditures since 2004, surpassing $63 million last year. On the commercialization front, our researchers received 15 patents last year and filed another 52 for consideration. We recently announced a licensing agreement with a Fort Worth company for a portable converter that turns natural gas into jet fuel and diesel. Several other major agreements are in the works.

Buoyed by research collaboration, UT Arlington is strategically positioned to supply the innovation to help our economy thrive and to create a healthier, safer, and more productive society. At the same time, we’re educating and training the next-generation, high-technology workforce. These are the things that great research universities do.