Posted on February 28, 2022 by Amanda Cerreto

This article originally appeared in the San Antonio Business Journal by Donna Provencher.

February 28, 2022 – In a panel last week, local leaders emphasized that the city’s recently formed R&D League could be key to attracting and retaining new talent.

DCLS The panel, part of the UTSA College for Health,Community and Policy's Dean's Community Lecture series, was moderated by David Yokum, director of the Policy Lab at Brown University. Featured speakers included Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Southwest Research Institute President and CEO Adam Hamilton and UTSA President Dr. Taylor Eighmy.

Hamilton said that the Southwest Research Institute, a contractor research and development nonprofit,has some 300 high-level research positions unfilled. Sometimes, the research talent needed at that level is not immediately available. But workplace talent and growth is something the R&D League is actively addressing, he said, in part by developing tools that can better connect the local research community with applied science and technology, which helps attract talent from other regions looking for opportunities.

Nirenberg noted that in San Antonio, historical inequity and generational poverty have often prevented talented students from entering research-intensive fields in science, but city funding for education — and local opportunities like the R&D League — can help offset this.

Eighmy said the R&D League’s strategic collaboration between governmental, educational and private-sector partners helps research and development enterprises flourish in San Antonio, and that its unique approach is attractive to talent from other cities.

But it’s a boon for “homegrown” talent as well, since young researchers participating in the R&D League —for instance, UTSA doctoral candidates — can network with one another in a way that prepares them to stay in the San Antonio ecosystem, he said.

Bernard Arulanandam, UTSA’s vice president for research, economic development and knowledge enterprise, noted that the R&D League is an example of taxpayers being able to see tangible research outcomes — and seeing those outcomes will attract and retain talent in various research and development fields.

The R&D League was founded two years ago by the city of San Antonio in partnership with Southwest Research Institute, the University of Texas at San Antonio and the United States Automobile Association. Its mission is to “create cross-sector,multi-disciplinary teams that utilize scientific methods and data to investigate new ideas, facilitate evidence-based policymaking, and explore the frontier of innovation …,” according to its website.

Since its founding, it’s secured more than $500,000to complete six trials and received three grants totaling about $4 million. The league’s partners have signed a three-year commitment and have invested$1 million to launch six to 10 more new trials. In looking ahead, the foundation’s vision for the next three to five years include goals like securing up to$20 million in grant funding, hiring four data scientists at the city of San Antonio and completing six projects per year that explore solutions to major city challenges.

— Amanda Cerreto