seal  Letter from the President

January 2004

A monthly letter from President Martin C. Jischke

I have commented previously in this letter that the Indiana General Assembly's 2003 special session was an important step forward for our state. During that session, the Legislature – in the face of an extremely bleak fiscal dilemma – made the courageous decision to start building our future by making targeted investments in economic development and education.

One of the most important steps our state's leaders took was the reinvigoration of the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund. With the ultimate goal of diversifying Indiana's economy, the fund encourages the development and commercialization of new technologies by supporting research partnerships between private business and universities.

By funding basic research projects that have the potential for commercial application, we are sowing the seeds for Indiana's future economic growth. It is always difficult for governments to make this kind of investment because results rarely come quickly, and it is not easy to predict which ideas will pay economic dividends. But we have to put those seeds in the ground and nurture them if we are going to cultivate a prosperous economy for Indiana in the decades ahead.

Created in 1999, the 21st Century Fund had given out 64 grants by the end of 2003, and 23 new awards were announced for 2004. I'm very proud that Purdue is a participant in 19 of these newly funded projects. One of the great advantages of the 21st Century Fund is that it encourages universities, private firms, local governments and other organizations to work together. In pursuing the 19 new initiatives, Purdue researchers will have more than 40 different partners. These include both public and private educational institutions, such as IUPUI, Notre Dame, Butler, Ball State, Indiana University and the Indiana School for the Blind.

The Purdue teams also will work with corporations and other entities that range from large firms like Eli Lilly, IBM, Cummins and Ford, to small startup companies like gh and Griffin Analytical Technologies. The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, Crane Naval Depot and the American Iron and Steel Institute are among the other partners.

The problems these research teams will try to solve are equally diverse. One group will work to develop an institute for advanced pharmaceutical technology, aimed at enhancing this crucial sector of Indiana's economy. Another project will focus on using advanced digital video compression technology to enhance national security. Still another will try to develop software to enhance the ability of sight-impaired people to learn mathematics and science.

These are just a few examples of the 21st Century Fund projects included in the latest round of funding. All of the initiatives have at least three things in common: They are joint efforts involving universities, private business and – in some cases – other organizations. They have the potential for commercial development. And they focus on sectors that are crucial to Indiana's future economic growth.

The 21st Century Fund is critical because some of the projects it supports will become important contributors to Indiana's economic future. But it's also important because the fund's existence is a statement that we believe in ourselves. I am pleased that Purdue people – faculty, students and staff – are involved so actively in these important fields of research, and I am confident that we can create a great future for our state if we keep investing in our intellectual potential.