UMB-College Park partnership will make Maryland stronger

It's a 21st-century organizational model for today's fast-changing, fiscally challenging and globally competit

Four years ago this month, I had the honor of formally announcing a historic collaboration between the University of Maryland at Baltimore and the University of Maryland College Park ("Support grows for combining University of Maryland campuses, but skeptics remain," March 2).

MPowering the State combined the complementary programs and strengths of both institutions to expand academics and research and to enhance their collective service to the state. It has become a 21st-century organizational model for today's fast-changing, fiscally challenging and globally competitive environment.

The success of MPower has been truly astounding. Joint research awards jumped from $2.9 million in 2012 to over $26 million in 2015, impacting such critical areas as health-related informatics, bioscience and biotechnology, and sports medicine.

Led by UM Ventures, the now-combined technology transfer office, invention disclosures increased by 32 percent and the number of startup companies and technology licenses have both doubled.

The accomplishments of MPower demonstrate an unassailable truth: Together, the universities can achieve more than they can individually.

As major research institutions, UMB and UMCP represent the centerpieces of Maryland's knowledge economy. The proposed University of Maryland Strategic Partnership Act of 2016 builds on this foundation.

The bill would provide $3 million in annual funding for a Center for Maryland Advanced Ventures in Baltimore City to pursue joint and interdisciplinary grants and to drive tech transfer from both campuses to commercial industries.

The bill also creates the University of Maryland Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Development to advance education in interdisciplinary fields critical to the region's future economy, such as virtual reality, data analytics and cybersecurity.

As someone deeply committed to economic development in the Baltimore-Washington region, and as someone who believes that greater collaboration between these two wonderful institutions will lead to research breakthroughs and positive impacts on the lives of the citizens of Maryland, I enthusiastically endorse and support the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership Act.

It will elevate both institutions, enhance academic programs and spark research in critically important fields. It means a stronger Maryland for all.

William E. "Brit" Kirwan

The writer was chancellor of the University System of Maryland from 2002 to 2015.

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