Set at Winthrop Rockefeller Institute atop beautiful Petit Jean Mountain, members and guests of the ARA Academy of Scholars and Fellows convened (Oct. 21-22) to elevate the role of research in Arkansas. Each of the state’s five research universities were represented, plus the U.S. FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research.
“The theme of these year’s gathering was Impact,” said Bryan Barnhouse, ARA Chief Operating Officer. “We really want our members to not only understand how important their work is, but we want to learn from them what we can do to help take their research to the next level.”
Among the announcements made at the two-day conference was the introduction of ARA Impact Grants, designed to help boost researchers over obstacles.
“The primary intent of the Impact Grants is for the funded projects to have very specific results and defined outcomes,” explained Jerry Adams, ARA President and CEO. Details remain to be ironed out, but Mr. Adams hopes to start awarding the Impact Grants in the spring of 2019.
The Academy would not be complete without special guests. This year, the annual gathering hosted three. Mark Crowell, Executive Chairman of the Academic Venture Exchange, and Louise Epstein, Director of University Partnerships for the Walton Family Foundation, teamed up for a discussion titled Emerging Strategies for Moving Early Stage Innovation through the Development Gap. Later, Tom Chilton of Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), delivered a preview of the 2018 State Science & Technology Report.
Perhaps the most engaging moments of the gathering occurred on Sunday evening, when Jerry Adams and Mark Crowell emceed a lively panel titled Lessons from the Trenches, featuring anecdotes and pragmatic business advice from Alex Biris (UA Little Rock), Morten Jensen (University of Arkansas), Mike Owens (UAMS), and Carolina Cruz-Neira (UA Little Rock).
The gathering came to a close with a group photo and a round robin discussion centered on Defining Your Impact.
“Every year, the Academy evolves into something greater,” said Mr. Adams.