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Battelle, Ohio State collaboration executive to increase mutual commercialization

The primary purpose of the vice president for the Battelle/Ohio State collaboration is helping with “idea generation, development and implementation” and to create a “more robust” set of joint research and economic development ventures.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University and the research powerhouse Battelle have installed a collaboration ambassador to energize research and economic development efforts between the two institutions.

The man selected for the position is Blake Thompson, the former director of university partnerships for the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He has strong connections to both Washington, D.C. and Jeff Wadsworth, Battelle’s president and chief executive officer. In Washington, Thompson assisted Republican leadership on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. He also worked with Wadsworth at Oak Ridge and has kept in since Wadsworth took over Battelle.

Now, Thompson’s title is vice president for the Battelle/Ohio State collaboration. His primary purpose is helping with “idea generation, development and implementation” and to create a “more robust” set of joint research and economic development ventures, according to the three-year agreement between Ohio State and Battelle that created the position.

“The high-level assessment is that we have the largest nonprofit research and development organization in the country and the largest single comprehensive university in the country together,” Thompson said. “That is an opportunity you can’t find anything else.”

Ohio State and Batelle have always been close in proximity and collaborative work. Battelle is across from the university campus, and Wadsworth is overseeing the new OSU Medical Center board that is reviewing the interaction between the center’s five hospital boards. Also, Battelle has provided Ohio State more than $88 million in the last 10 years in research grants, fellowships and other contributions. There are three pages worth of OSU projects related to health and life science, Battelle spokeswoman Katy Delaney said.

The two institutions also collaborated with local school districts to create Metro High School, a science, technology, engineering and math “STEM” school.

Officials from both entities said the agreement creates a more formal way to manage the connections they have with one another. It’s too soon to tell what will tangibly change and whether life science research, for example, would get a greater emphasis than it had before. Thompson will spend the first three months meeting with institution executives to develop short-term goals for the year, according to the agreement.

As part of the deal, Ohio State will pay $85,000 to Battelle which will pay Thompson’s salary.

Thompson’s last job was managing university partnerships at Oak Ridge National Laboratory while serving as an associate vice president at the University of Tennessee. In both positions, he was responsible for developing partnerships between academic and research institution. He was also deputy staff director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations and a legislative director to Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran.

Thompson said he enjoyed recruiting top talent to Oak Ridge and the university and watching their careers flourish. But he has always been draw to research.

“The thing I’ve really enjoyed is working with and understanding science and technology and helping to build relationships to further research and development,” he said. “It makes me feel part of something bigger than myself.”