Frequently Asked Questions about USTAR and the University of Utah
What is the Utah Science, Technology and Research (USTAR) Economic Development Initiative?
An innovative, aggressive and far-reaching effort to enhance Utah’s economy with high- paying jobs and keep the state vibrant and competitive in the Knowledge Age. It has been developed by Utah’s business leaders in collaboration with the Governor’s Office, economic development leaders, key legislators, and university leaders.
Why is USTAR important?
Utah’s economic future is at stake. Without a carefully planned strategy, Utah will certainly grow, but not with high-paying jobs that support a family and that generate sufficient tax revenues to support our large education burden. Utah is losing ground. In 1981, Utah’s average salary was 96% of the national average. Today it has dropped to 82%. Low salaries have social consequences: more families needing multiple incomes to survive economically, higher bankruptcy rates, the lowest per-pupil education spending in the nation. We must aspire to be a high-wage state.
How can USTAR increase our average salaries?
High salaries are found in advanced technology companies. For example, the average salary in the IT industry in Utah is 75% higher than the statewide average wage. IT accounts for only 3.7% of Utah jobs, but 6.5% of total wages.Unfortunately, Utah’s technology employment dropped from a high of 67,000 jobs in 2000 to only 56,000 in 2004, contributing to the decline in average salaries. In the globally-competitive Knowledge Age, Utah is falling behind, even as science and technology are advancing rapidly, spawning entirely new industries and high-tech businesses.
How will USTAR create high-tech jobs?
World-class research teams will be recruited to Utah and developed internally in carefully-targeted disciplines with multi-billion dollar markets where Utah already has distinct competitive advantages, such as genomics and personalized medicine. These teams will do research leading to the development of products and services that can be commercialized in new businesses and industries, creating high-paying jobs and increasing Utah’s tax revenue.
How will the entire state benefit from USTAR?
All areas of the state will benefit as five Innovation Centers, located strategically throughout the state, support the needs of local businesses and connect them to USTAR research and development projects and other resources.
How many professors will be involved in the USTAR program?
The University of Utah and Utah State University have currently identified 11 faculty hiring focus areas (8 at the U of U, and 4 at USU). The focus areas represent existing research strengths and have high potential for economic impact and commercialization opportunities. Each focus area has identified a team of faculty who will be the core recruiting team. We anticipate hiring on average 2 new professors for each focus area to compliment and add to the talent pool of the focus area, attract additional grant funding, increase the number of patent disclosures, licenses, and number of spin-off companies from the university.
How many professors have been hired at the University of Utah so far?
To meet the University of Utah’s USTAR faculty members, click here.
How are they chosen? What qualifications are you looking for?
Each focus area has a hiring committee in which they seek out and interview talent that are at the top of their field, or are considered up and coming in the field (for the “up and coming” faculty, they look for individuals who are protégés of nationally recognized researchers). We are looking for professors that fit different roles. They might be the thought-leader in research in their area, or they might be funding “rainmakers” who are very successful in attracting research funding or they might have a track record of invention and commercialization with success in spinning off companies from their research areas. We are looking to hire individuals that compliment each other as an interdisciplinary research and development team and can successfully move the purpose of USTAR forward.
What happens if the USTAR program ends abruptly? Is the salary for my position permanent? Will my start up funds go away?
The legislature appropriated on-going funds to the USTAR authority for this program. If the Authority should decide to stop funding the work of a particular faculty member for any reason, the associated university would be responsible for continuing the funding under the normal tenure rules. Start-up funding is committed from available resources at the time a faculty member is hired so it is not subject to later reconsideration.
What has been the response of these professors when asked to be a part of USTAR?
For the faculty who have chosen to bring their research and teams to Utah, the response has been positive. They are excited about the support that the State is providing to advance the Knowledge Economy in Utah. As one can imagine, not all faculty who are initially identified for recruitment will decide to come to Utah.
What types of businesses can be spun off from their specific research?
Not all of the researchers ideas will lead to new companies. Some research that results in patent applications will be best suited for licensing by existing companies. We will be marketing the research and development strengths of the team to existing Utah businesses and we encourage them to sponsor research and / or license the technologies to improve already existing products or platforms. Royalty streams from licensing and spinoff companies will come back and benefit the university and the USTAR program. Two of our initial USTAR faculty members are looking at companies in the Carbon sequestration applications of energy research and intelligent sensor space; however, as the program matures, we expect that each of the focus areas will spawn new companies, but they will do so in differing and unpredictable time frames.
What stage of development are the USTAR research facilities in?
State facilities go through a process of Programming, Design, and Construction. A and E firms have been selected at U of U and USU. At the U of U, the program team is a local firm, Architectural Nexus, and a national partner of Lord Aeck Sargent. At Utah State the selected firm is AJC Architects, a partner with a national firm called Payette Associates. We hope to finish programming phase in Fall of 2007. To meet the current space needs of the USTAR faculty at U of U, the U has purchased the NPS building in Research Park and will plan to house between 7-10 faculty in the building in the short term . We will be remodeling the 2d floor of this 3-story building to create lab space where offices currently exists.
What purposes will the USTAR research facilities serve? How will this benefit researchers? Local businesses? Taxpayers?
When you recruit all-star faculty, they ask the question, “where will I be working?” To recruit world-class faculty, you need to have world-class facilities. Historically, University research facilities have not been as interdisciplinary as they need to be and they have not been focused on developmental and commercial-type outcomes. These buildings will provide the necessary resources to further innovative research.
When are the USTAR research facilities scheduled to be finished?
We are hoping to complete the programming process in Fall 2007. Following completion of the programming phase, design and construction will take place. Generally the design phase requires 10-12 months and construction phase is 20-24 months so we are hoping to occupy the buildings by Winter 2010 or Spring 2011.
How long before USTAR University technologies are commercialized and reach the market?
It takes a number of years for new technology to be developed and go through the commercialization process. The rate of commercialization will vary from group to group and can not be predicted. But, we expect to start seeing emerging technologies commercialized within about four years.
What benefits will Utah taxpayers experience through USTAR initiatives? When will they begin to see these benefits?
More technology-based job opportunities, Higher paying jobs, Better economy, Stronger higher-education and better entrepreneurial resources.
What value does USTAR offer now that Universities couldn’t before?
Stronger incentives for recruiting world-class research teams, Greater efficiency in entrepreneurial education and resources, More technology-based job opportunities, Higher paying jobs and the expansion of tax base.
What is the purpose of the Technology Outreach and Innovation Program (TOIP)?
To support the accomplishment of the financial, employment, and research objectives of USTAR through the application of deep business, leadership, and functional expertise to the most promising opportunities and focus areas.
What areas are each of the TOIP directors focusing on? What do they hope to accomplish?
Facilitate collaboration between State’s public research universities to regional applied technology centers, colleges, universities, businesses and entrepreneurs.
How will TOIP and university research cooperate?
TOIP will help university researchers reach the marketplace through commercialization of technologies. It will connect industry with research universities together to promote collaboration.
What successes are the TOIP directors finding?
Many up-and-coming companies that show great potential.
What else should I understand about USTAR and its progression?
We are currently refining the strategy for each of the initial focus areas, to guide us in the hiring process and the development of each focus area. We are currently in the programming phase for the design and construction of new interdisciplinary research buildings at University of Utah and Utah State where the USTAR faculty and their teams will be housed. We hope these buildings will be magnets for industry collaboration and community interest. We welcome input from the business community, particularly if your area of interest matches up with existing research focus areas. Our website at will be regularly updated with the current information on USTAR and we welcome people to sign up for our periodic newsletters. We welcome discussion with industry and the university communities on how we can better partner and maximize the efforts of this initiative.