New position will help fulfill Albrecht's goals

By Benjamin Wood
The Utah Statesman
September 29, 2010

Rob Behunin, special assistant to the president, was recently appointed as vice president over commercialization and regional development.

In his role as vice president, Behunin will oversee the commercialization of USU research and development, as well as the unification of Utah State's regional campuses.

Behunin said the changes in regional development and commercialization are being made in accordance with President Stan Albrecht's goal of bringing the various segments of the Utah State system together under one university, one studentbody and one vision.

"We need to treat USU as one asset," Behunin said, "we need to unify and bring it together to develop opportunities."

Behunin's appointment comes with an increased effort to find market application for university research. Logan-campus entities such as the Utah Science and Technology Research (USTAR), TechnologyCommercialization Office (TCO) and Utah State University Research Foundation (USURF) as well as growing programs in USU's Uintah Basin, Tooele and Price campuses will now be combined under an executive committee to facilitate research relationships and opportunities for commercial ventures.

USU spokesman John DeVilbiss said that the aim of university commercialization is to take the research performed on campus and turn it into a viable market product.

"It is a Gatorade," DeVilbiss said, referring to the energy drink developed on the University of Florida campus.

USU has already seen success in commercialization. The Space Dynamics Lab often works with the private sector on its research and in 2008, research by USURF on air scrubbing technology led to the formation of Purestream Technology, which continues to see success in the business market, Behunin said.

As for regional development, Behunin has seen extensive research application at the Uintah Basin Campus and has been working with entrepreneurs at USU-CEU in Price on projects that deal with clean coal technology and mining safety procedures, and was very positive about the progress being made there.

"We're already moving in that space," Behunin said. "The Uintah Basin certainly is the model. This has been our first test, Price is next."

DeVilbiss said, "Rob is already at work doing his magic. I know there's potential for a very exciting announcement down the road."

While Behunin couldn't comment on the commercialization of specific projects, he said that research in Tooele on advanced vehicle technology has the potential for business application and that a USURF satellite project is very near to reaching the commercial stage.

"We're looking at a weather satellite technology that we'll be commercializing in the near term," Behunin said.

By unifying university research, Behunin said any student on any USU campus has the potential to be involved in the projects at Utah State.

"We're going to try to cross-pollinate across all disciplines," Behunin said. "The average student may be working on very specific projects, that might migrate out into regional areas."

Behunin gave a hypothetical example of how research by students in the College of Agriculture might be taken to Price, Moab or Blanding for testing and application after which students from the Huntsman School of Business would be called in for marketing and business strategies.

"We want to try to connect the dots with our Logan students and our regional students," Behunin said.


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