Strategic Renewal as the FedEx Institute of Technology Moves into its Second Decade

As the FedEx Institute of Technology moves into its second decade of operations as the front door to the University's research infrastructure and capabilities, strategic renewal and an expansion of its mission are in the works at the University of Memphis.

President M. David Rudd's new vision for the Institute emphasizes a stronger technology focus, a national profile in terms of being at the forefront of technology developments and partnerships with global technology organizations. It includes serving as the spark to bring the latest technology innovations to the region, stronger community partnerships and an emphasis on improved opportunities for commercialization. He also sees the Institute as a key mechanism to help break down the traditional silos that can stifle interdisciplinary research and faculty collaborations at universities.

New key areas of focus will include the expanding biologistics sector and cyber security testing, which has quickly emerged as a national security and business challenge. In both cases, it will be building upon capabilities that the University has put in place over the last decade. The push into biologistics will see the University's bioengineering, freight transportation, bioinformatics and biomaterials groups coming together to innovate in research and launch the first biologistics graduate program in the country.

None of these constituent groups was in place when the FedEx Institute of Technology first opened its doors. In the case of cyber security testing, the University will be building upon two core competencies in which it has national strengths: systems testing and information assurance. Its Systems Testing Excellence Program is the nation's largest academic research group in software testing, and since 2006 has been helping the likes of FedEx and the U.S. Department of Defense to advance industry best practices through research and training. Similarly, its Center for Information Assurance has been one of the most active research groups at the University and enjoys designations as a National Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and Research.

The FedEx Institute of Technology will also be strengthening its relationships with regional chief information and technology officers. Dr. Rudd issued this call to technology leaders in the community: "If you are playing such a technology leadership role in your organization, please consider this your open invitation to connect with and be a part of the FedEx Institute of Technology as we work together to make Memphis a vibrant technology hub for the future."

The reenergizing and strategic renewal of the Institute will see the University appointing Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal, who currently oversees its portfolio of 111 graduate programs (that include doctoral, masters and graduate certificate programs), stepping up to lead as the U of M's new Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Director of the FIT. Consistent with an effort to enhance efficiency, Dr. Dhaliwal has agreed to continue to serve as interim dean of the Graduate School. As the new Chief Innovation Officer, he will report directly to the president, join the President's Council, and his appointment will see the University's nearly 4,000 doctoral and masters students becoming closely involved with the research and outreach activities of the Institute as it builds on past successes.

Technology transfer efforts, led by Dr. Kevin Boggs, and supporting entrepreneurship, remain priorities which will be now be merged into the larger role of the Institute on campus and in the community. The Crews Center for Entrepreneurship will be seeking distinct new partnerships within the regional innovation ecosystem to boost technology commercialization by students and faculty. Dr. Dhaliwal noted that, "Besides forging a tighter technology relationship with FedEx, the Institute will also function as an additional catalyst to further energize University efforts to grow its funded research base given recent successes such as the NIH-funded Mobile Sensor Data-to-Knowledge Center of Excellence in mobile health. This will involve working closely both with internal research support services professionals led by Dr. Andy Meyers, the University's interim vice president for Research, and with external partners such as Memphis Bioworks, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and others."

David Rudd | President