National laboratories need qualified scientists and their ideas. Mississippi’s research universities meanwhile need to find new avenues to finance their projects, and job opportunities for their graduates.
An empty pocket is the mother of invention. After years of dwindling funding, universities have been forced to look at other financial options. Republican Congressman Alan Nunnelee was at the University of Mississippi last week as representatives of the state’s four research universities met with three national laboratories to talk about greater collaboration.
“We live in a new era. No longer can Congress step in and direct funding to any university. These universities have to compete. And I’m convinced that the Mississippi universities can compete with any research facility anywhere in the world. And our job is to get the two entities together.”
According to Eric Isaacs, director of Illinois-based Argonne National Laboratory, working closely with Mississippi’s universities is a win-win.
“In science we do many things in providing major facilities like massive computers but we can’t do it alone. So we’re here to try to find partnerships here in Mississippi, with the universities in Mississippi to essentially build out the eco system that’ll allow us to do great things.”
By great things Isaacs means, for example, figuring out how to reduce the carbon footprint.
“One of the things we’re very interested in solving is the problem of energy storage. If we could replace internal combustion engines with motor vehicles with batteries we could reduce the impact of carbon by factors of five.”
This meeting in Oxford was the first of many. The state’s universities are backed in this endeavor by the Institutions of Higher Learning and the Mississippi Energy Institute, as well as the Mississippi Technology Alliance, and the Mississippi Development Authority.