$194.7 Million Grant Transforms U of A Research Engine, Creates Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research (I3R)

Grant Funding Breakdown

One of the largest single private grants ever given to a university for advancing research and economic development will allow the new research institute (I3R) to be become a reality. The $194.7 million grant from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation funds multiple projects to grow the university’s cross-disciplinary research capability, expand the scope of discoveries made by University of Arkansas researchers and increase the velocity in which discoveries are transferred to the marketplace where they can improve or save lives.

I3R is envisioned as a unique approach to research that will distinguish the University of Arkansas by creating a flexible, state-of-the-art collaborative framework designed to facilitate the integration of research across five overlapping clusters of innovation.

In addition to establishing I3R, the grant provides funding for the I3R Research Facility, entrepreneurship education and an expansion of the university’s presence in the region.

“Arkansas has long been known for its entrepreneurial spirit and as a place where businesses thrive. This grant will support the University of Arkansas as it seeks to drive innovation and transform entrepreneurship and research to commercialization for industries nationwide.” - Steuart Walton, chairman of the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation Board

“All transformational solutions start with questions. How does the University of Arkansas distinguish itself as a great research university among a sea of great and distinguished universities? How do we do that in a way that drives economic development and creates clear avenues for industry involvement? How do we change the culture of collaboration so that it advances our research and commercialization profile? And how do we change the way we do science on campus? The creation of I3R is the answer.” - Chancellor Joseph E. Steinmetz

What makes the I3R unique?

Our traditional university structure has been built around disciplines, usually housed in departments within schools and colleges. Like most universities, we have also developed research centers to support collaborative research within disciplines as well as interdisciplinary research. These cross-cutting structures have helped drive the substantial growth of research at the University of Arkansas.

I3R will be a university-wide presence, not owned or administered by existing academic units. A new research building will become the hub and focal point of integrated activity with strategic outward “spokes” on campus such as our major research facilities, that will still house important disciplinary work in the clusters, and throughout the communities we serve. Faculty, students and staff who are part of the Institute will have appointments in both the centrally managed Institute as well as in traditional colleges and schools.

Innovation Clusters

The institute will house innovation clusters for research within five focus areas that fall within the university’s Signature Research Areas.

Food + Technology

Arkansas is a leader in the production of rice, poultry, soybeans, corn and more, as well as home to major food producing companies, making the University of Arkansas a natural choice to be the epicenter of research excellence into food systems and the future of food production.

Data Science

The U of A will advance data science technology and help transform Arkansas’ economy through the application of data science in new ways.

Materials Science & Engineering

Through nanotechnology and other advanced technologies, U of A researchers develop reliable and economically viable materials that support our everyday lives, from clothing that protects us from the sun to cell phone, car and aircraft components that are safer and environmentally sound.

Bioscience & Bioengineering Research in Metabolism

U of A researchers in chemistry, biochemistry, bioengineering and beyond have developed breakthrough technologies in metabolic disease detection and control with discoveries focused on improving and saving lives.

Integrative Systems Neuroscience

This relatively new research focus at the U of A has grown exponentially in the last two years with imaging research and computational approaches that create opportunity for additional cross-disciplinary research.

How were the Innovation Clusters Identified?

These clusters were identified through a rigorous data-driven and interdisciplinary approach that examined:

  • the number of existing faculty and their external grant productivity in each area;
  • the reputation of the programs using available data bases, such as Academic Analytics which allows us to compare research productivity metrics of our departments with others nationally, as well as to recent major awards received by our faculty such as National Science Foundation CAREER awards;
  • potential for commercialization and industry partnerships and the importance of growing commercialization in the biomedical research space; and
  • the potential future for funding (this is particularly true for neuroscience – governing bodies around the world are funding neuroscience research at unprecedented levels right now. In the U.S., the BRAIN Initiative (The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies®), (https://braininitiative.nih.gov) is underway and slated to invest billions in brain research over the coming decade.)

Funding Breakdown

Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research (I3R)

$88 million

A unique approach to research that will distinguish the University of Arkansas by creating a flexible, state-of-the-art collaborative framework designed to facilitate the integration of research across overlapping edges of disciplines. This will help drive discovery, innovation and the distinctiveness of the University of Arkansas.

This includes:

  • Endowed chairs & faculty positions
  • Faculty start-up matching funds
  • Support staff matching funds
  • Industry liaison & support
  • Operation funding
  • Director recruiting support

The I3R Research Facility

$89 million

This research facility will distinguish the University of Arkansas among research universities by creating a space designed to facilitate the integration of research across five overlapping disciplines. These funds will match the university’s investment in a research building, designed to influence and inspire collaborative research and discovery, providing access to services to aid in commercialization and foster industry engagement. It will house a specific number of laboratories, key core facilities and equipment for use by multiple academic researchers as well as industry partners. The facility will offer space for industry collaboration and R&D while research projects leading to commercialization are underway.

Entrepreneurship Education

$3.5 million

The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation will receive funds to provide applied and experiential learning opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students. The Honors College will receive internship program support.

  • Global start-up competition
  • Honors College Internship support
  • Graduate fellowships
  • Commercialization internships

Bentonville Campus

$14 million

This fund will provide resources for the initial establishment of the U of A presence in Bentonville to serve as a spoke of the I3R hub in Bentonville including the costs to lease a facility, buildouts or renovation costs, startup, outfitting, furnishings, technology, networking and equipment in the facility as well as a longer-term master plan as a component of the institute’s presence in Benton County. A planning process will commence this summer to plan for populating the space comprehensively with outreach, research and relevant lab space, as well as educational space. The Bentonville Campus is still subject to approval by the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees and appropriate accrediting agencies.

$172.6 million in research expenditures in FY19

$112 million in research awards in FY19

R-1 Research University since 2011