Virginia Tech’s research engine is as important as ever in the commonwealth and in the world.

Its future is even brighter, said Theresa Mayer, the university’s vice president for Research and Innovation, on Thursday as she spoke to a full Steger Hall auditorium during her State of Research and Innovation address.

Mayer highlighted the ways that research at Virginia Tech has grown over the past few decades and the critical role it plays in shaping the university’s mission and goal to become a top 100 global institution.

“Research is core to our mission as a land grant institution,” she said. “We also have a role to play in the commonwealth as we think about economic development.”

Mayer compared several of the university’s current research metrics with 1988, the year that she received her undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech. In 1988, Virginia Tech had $89 million in research expenditures. Now, these expenditures total more than $523 million.

Extramural funding for research totaled $272 million, which is up 6 percent from last year.

Total scholarly publications jumped to more than 4,700 this year, from 1,500 in 1999.

“We are strong, and we are growing stronger,” Mayer said.

She highlighted the 15 faculty who received CAREER awards this year from the National Science Foundation, and she lauded the university’s research across its many disciplines.

Virginia Tech’s role to lead the process to create a blueprint for the development of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative reflects its influence in the state, Mayer said. This effort will bring together Virginia’s public institutions and the private sector to conduct cyber security research, train leaders, and develop strategies.

Looking ahead, there are numerous opportunities and locations for Virginia Tech to expand its research footprint and support, Mayer said. That includes in Northern Virginia and in Roanoke where Virginia Tech’s presence is growing.

“There is tremendous opportunity for us to leverage our unique geography to our advantage,” Mayer said.

Also, the university’s work with businesses is essential to fueling future initiatives, she said. To support this work, Virginia Tech created LINK, The Center for Advancing Industry Partnerships, last year to streamline the way companies engage with the university. In September, Virginia Tech announced LAUNCH, The Center for New Ventures, which will help turn inventions made by university researchers into applied innovations.

In its first year, LINK helped secure agreements with such companies as aerospace giant Boeing and digital currency pioneer Block.one. Both agreements underscore the university’s strong reputation for forging comprehensive industry partnerships.

Mayer also discussed VT-FAST, a new virtual resource for faculty to help in proposal and grant development, so that they can focus on research. The concept is for VT-FAST to provide Virginia Tech faculty timely access to personnel that can help with a variety of tasks. For example, it can help with grant writing and manuscript preparation and provide a way for faculty to communicate with compliance personnel and the Office of Sponsored Programs.

Mayer introduced two new hires in the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation. Lisa Lee, an associate vice president, will lead a new Division of Scholarly Integrity and Research Compliance. David Schabdach, an associate vice president and attending veterinarian, will advance excellence in research and instruction by providing oversight and direction to ensure the highest standards of well-being and care for animals across the university. He begins his role on Jan. 7.

It’s clear that Virginia Tech’s research portfolio is broader and more balanced compared with other institutions, said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands, at the beginning of Mayer’s address. Supporting this expanding enterprise is crucial, he said.

Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone