CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University plans to partner more with industry in Oregon and nationally, and on Tuesday named its engineering dean to lead a new initiative aimed at expanding its engagement with the private sector.
Ron Adams, who has been dean of OSU’s College of Engineering since 1998, will become the university’s first executive associate vice president for research. Before coming to OSU, he was a vice president for Tektronix, and since becoming dean he has forged strong relations with the high-tech sector in Oregon.
Adams will seek to build relations between OSU and other areas within the private sector, said Sabah Randhawa, the university’s provost and executive vice president. Randhawa noted that OSU leads all Oregon University System institutions in research funding, with more than $260 million this year, and would like to further that success by working more closely with industry.
“As a university, we have a long history of successfully competing for grants from federal agencies from the National Science Foundation to the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” Randhawa said. “Now we need to have the same success in creating partnerships with businesses in Oregon, the region and the nation.
“It is about much more than securing grants from industry,” Randhawa emphasized. “The goal is to identify significant and relevant problems of mutual interest between OSU and industry, and then work to find ways to address those issues. This may involve research, it may involve undergraduate and graduate student participation, and it may create new employment opportunities for our graduates.”
Adams will begin his new duties on Oct. 15. As the executive associate vice president for research, he will work closely with the university’s president and provost, the OSU Foundation, and OSU’s deans to build relationships with the private sector.
He says the new position is a natural extension of his role as dean and he anticipates a smooth transition.
“OSU already has involvement with industry in many of our departments and colleges,” Adams said, “but as an institution, it is somewhat piecemeal. We have a strong culture of collaboration and can better leverage that culture along with world-class capabilities to deliver powerful solutions to global problems. This is what industry is looking for and this change is the first step toward delivering that impact. It will create coordinated responses and give more of an institutional identity so that people in the private sector know where to come when they are looking for potential partnerships.”
As dean, Adams has fostered an era of impressive growth in the College of Engineering. He forged the Engineering Technology Industry Council (ETIC) partnership that advocated to the Oregon Legislature and has led to significant state investments in engineering education over the past decade. During his tenure as dean, research in OSU’s College of Engineering grew by 175 percent to more than $33 million in 2010-11, and the college has raised $141 million toward a goal of $160 million – the largest goal of any unit – in the Campaign for OSU.
Two significant facilities projects during his tenure were the construction of the Kelley Engineering Building, enabled by a $20 million gift from the late Martin Kelley, and his wife Judy, and the complete renovation of Apperson Hall – now known as Kearney Hall – that was driven by a lead gift by Lee and Connie Kearney.
A major grant from the National Science Foundation spurred construction of OSU’s Tsunami Wave Basin, one of the most sophisticated wave research facilities in the world. The college also has become a national leader in the development of wave energy, and it was instrumental in the creation of the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI) – the state’s first signature research center.
Adams is particularly proud of the spinoff companies that have emerged because of his faculty’s research, including HD+, Inpria and NuScale. “OSU has a bright future in the development of even more spinoff companies, and in sectors ranging from agriculture and forestry to public health,” he said.
Rick Spinrad, OSU’s vice president for research, said Adams’ knowledge of campus and the private sector make him ideally suited for the new position.
“Ron brings an extraordinary and unique familiarity of faculty interests and corporate needs,” Spinrad said. “I know that we will see dramatic gains in university-industry partnering through Ron’s ability to interact effectively with industry and academia.”
Adams earned his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from OSU and his M.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served in the U.S. Air Force and worked at MIT Lincoln Labs before joining the OSU faculty as an assistant, and then associate professor of mechanical engineering. He specialized in fluid dynamics and ink-jet printers, and then took a leave from OSU to lead a team at Tektronix working on developing color printing and graphics technologies.
Adams eventually led the company’s effort to commercialize and start up its solid ink printing business and in 1995 was named vice president and senior fellow.
OSU will immediately launch a search for a new dean, as well as for an interim leader, Randhawa said.