NORDP 2017 Conference Notes: Strategic Use of Spaces for Research Development


  • Jasmin Patel, Assistant Vice President, Research Strategy, Saint Louis University
  • Julia Lane, Executive Director, Research Development, University of Chicago

Thanks to our session note-taker, Sarah Polasky!

Key points from the session. We learned: 

  • Session focused on physical space that has been designed and built for research development activities – physical infrastructure to change conversation on and off campus for research development purposes, benefits of the spaces, discussion about spaces in use by audience, successes, and future needs.
  • Entrepreneurial community spaces – collaboration spaces, coworking spaces, communal workspaces for diverse groups – open concept, relaxing, white boards, amenities (snacks, high speed internet), programming, opportunities to meet with investors.
  • 4 types of silos in academia – faculty-faculty; faculty-administrators; research-development/fundraising; industry-university.
  • Examples of spaces:
    • Faculty-Faculty: Neutral Space – Catalyst (UChicago, ARETE) – externally funded with low startup and maintenance costs ($100K; $200/mo); revamped a former tech store; lots of programming offered; research development staff co-located; open space/concept; coffee, wine, food; 3rd floor of bookstore; open to faculty primarily, potentially could expand to graduate students.
    • Faculty-Administrators: Increasing Proximity to VPR – ResearchNorth (St. Louis U.) – changing culture of research office and increasing accessibility; very low startup and maintenance ($20K; $160/mo; 525 sq. ft.); programming; intellectual resources (books); faculty can use it for meetings (use increasing) and lab meetings bring students to the space; snacks, coffee, beer; open door culture has increased casual interaction; VPR and Provost have dropped in on meetings; similar space has been requested for second campus – space has somewhat bridged a physical division between north and south campuses.
    • Research-Development/Fundraising: Philanthropic Space – Computer & Data Science Hub (UChicago) – very expensive ($ not disclosed) paid via a major naming gift and matched university funds; over 27k sq. ft.; houses computer science, computational resources, digital humanities; conceived as first floor of a traditional library.
    • Industry-University: Industry – Cortex (St. Louis U.) part of CIC space in St Louis – $5000 startup; rent $4500/mo; 440 sq. ft.; emphasis on community presence and partnership; required more internal advocacy (convince president); considering space versus personnel; two other universities were already present at the space when they joined; Technology Transfer for SLU also at this location; used for student business competitions.
  • Still trying to capture ROI for the spaces – new metrics that could be captured that could or should be considered – plus considering the potential – is there a long term plan or idea for these spaces?

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?      

  • Wide range of startup and maintenance costs.
  • Underutilization of space, often due to location, was echoed in comments from attendees.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenter(s)’ response?

  • How do these incubators calculate impact (e.g., number of jobs)? Count number of new companies, the number of jobs each, and number of jobs with co-located/nearby new companies (coffee shops, deli).
  • Were architects involved? Round tables somewhat force collaboration as an example, versus linear tables that allow isolation.
    • Catalyst space – yes. Designed spaces were too expensive and too corporate. Designed internally and was less expensive even with custom furniture. Feels more like a living room. New larger space will have designers involved but faculty want to maintain the feel of the catalyst space.
    • Cortex – used Ikea for renderings. Was initially too corporate but did use reconfigurable desks.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?       

  • Lots of audience participation and questions about both strategic planning for the space and functional, practical uses of the space. Many questions about use of space for students versus faculty.

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