Provost’s ef­forts poised to pay off for Wright State, re­gion.

State funds could give it a boost. Leg­is­la­tion could in­clude ex­panded role for it, too.

Dayton Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - By Thomas Gnau Staff Writer Con­tact this re­porter at 937-225-2390 or email Thomas.Gnau@cox­inc.com.

— The plac­ing FAIR­BORN of Wright State Univer­sity’s provost on leave comes at a time when the in­sti­tute he co-founded is about to take a leap for­ward in stature.

Sun­daram Narayanan, the univer­sity’s third high­est-paid em­ployee, co-founded the Wright State Re­search In­sti­tute along with WSU Pres­i­dent David Hop­kins in 2007. In re­cent years the in­sti­tute has un­der­gone tremen­dous growth and is in line for a pos­si­ble fund­ing boost from the state of Ohio.

The Ap­plied Re­search Corp., the univer­sity’s non-profit re­search ad­min­is­tra­tive arm, stands to gain some $20 mil­lion in state gen­eral rev­enue fund money in the new two-year Ohio bud­get that the Se­nate ap­proved on Thurs­day.

If the money sur­vives in the fi­nal ver­sion of the bud­get that Gov. John Ka­sich signs in the next two weeks, the univer­sity will take the lead in shep­herd­ing fed­eral re­search dol­lars to univer­si­ties across the state.

Nei­ther the univer­sity nor Narayanan have com­mented on the na­ture of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion that placed Narayanan and three oth­ers on leave. But it fol­lows a pe­riod of huge growth for the univer­sity’s re­search ef­forts.

Wright State Col­lege of En­gi­neer­ing and Com­puter Science’s re­search fund­ing grew by 6 7 per­cent — from $9 mil­lion in 2009 to $15 mil­lion in 2012 — while Narayanan was dean of the school.

And the non­profit Ap­plied Re­search Corp. — which ad­min­is­ters con­tracts for WSRI — saw $11,6 27,052 in con­tract and grant rev­enue for 2014, up from $7,030,581 in 2013, ac­cord­ing to a state au­dit dated Jan. 6 , 2015. The Air Force has been a fun­der of some of the in­sti­tute’s re­search projects.

Cindy McGovern, a spokes­woman for the De­fense Se­cu­rity Ser­vice, said Wright State is a cleared fa­cil­ity un­der the Na­tional In­dus­trial Se­cu­rity pro­gram. She said she knew of no in­ves­ti­ga­tion into how Wright State and WSRI han­dle fed­eral re­search con­tracts.

“I have no knowl­edge of any other par­tic­u­lar is­sues other than our nor­mal over­sight re­spon­si­bil­i­ties” over Wright State, McGovern said.

A new pow­er­ful role

The re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of Wright State’s Ap­plied Re­search Corp. will grow if pro­vi­sions in the Ohio House and Se­nate bud­gets be­come law. Its prospec­tive ad­min­is­tra­tive role — shep­herd­ing fed­eral re­search con­tracts to Ohio re­search univer­si­ties — would be a pow­er­ful one.

While it would be im­por­tant for Wright State, “it’s also a re­ally col­lab­o­ra­tive re­la­tion­ship across all these univer­si­ties — the Univer­sity of Day­ton, Ohio State, OU (Ohio Univer­sity), Cleve­land State, Case (Western Re­serve Univer­sity), some com­mu­nity col­leges, Sin­clair (Com­mu­nity Col­lege),” said Dennis An­dersh, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ap­plied Re­search. “We’re re­ally build­ing a col­lab­o­ra­tive role to es­tab­lish this re­search port­fo­lio.”

Ohio Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beaver­creek, placed the amend­ment for the Fed­eral Re­search Net­work into the state bud­get.

“Other states are do­ing this and do­ing this very well,” Perales said. “We have so much ca­pa­bil­ity, so much ca­pac­ity in the state of Ohio, but we haven’t pulled it all to­gether.”

Wright-Pat­ter­son and NASA Glenn may be on op­po­site ends of the state but they are still “highly tech­ni­cal” in­sti­tu­tions that of­fer lu­cra­tive re­search con­tracts, Perales said. It’s time for Ohio univer­si­ties to “start at­tack­ing some of those $7 bil­lion that are out there,” he said.

“It’s not a sec­tor, it’s not a re­gion,” Perales said. “It’s the state work­ing to­gether.”

Net­work seeks to tap fed­eral re­search dol­lars

Un­der its new pro­posed new role, the Ap­plied Re­search Cor­po­ra­tion will serve as con­duit for re­search jobs statewide, Perales said. For ex­am­ple, UD and UDRI could take the lead in composites and ma­te­ri­als re­search, he said.

“These guys are talk­ing now,” Perales said. “They know who is good at what.”

An­chor­ing the newly cre­ated Fed­eral Re­search Net­work at Wright State makes sense, said State Rep. Niraj An­tani, R-Mi­amis­burg.

“They are lit­er­ally min­utes from the base,” he said. “I think they will, as they have in the past, work col­lab­o­ra­tively with UD (Univer­sity of Day­ton), Sin­clair (Com­mu­nity Col­lege) and Cen­tral State.”

Said An­dersh: “It would be ba­si­cally bring­ing all of the univer­si­ties to­gether to col­lab­o­rate with the state, if you will.”

Such a net­work might prove use­ful when a new fed­eral BRAC (Base Re­align­ment and Clo­sure) process be­gins, ac­cord­ing to An­tani. A BRAC com­mis­sion and process searches for ways to make Amer­ica’s ar­ray of mil­i­tary bases more ef­fi­cient, clos­ing and mov­ing some in­stal­la­tions. Ev­ery com­mu­nity tries to pro­tect its lo­cal base.

“If we can show with a BRAC that our univer­si­ties are plugged in, and are help­ing and sup­ply­ing the (Wright-Pat­ter­son) base and NASA Glenn, then we think they’re in a strong po­si­tion to keep those mis­sions at the base and at NASA Glenn,” An­tani said.

Perales agreed that the re­gion needs to be pre­pared for the next BRAC. But he said the need goes be­yond that.

“Now we know we have to be ready ev­ery day for changes in mis­sions, for re­align­ments,” said Perales, a for­mer squadron com­man­der at WrightPat­ter­son.

Perales said he knows “very lit­tle” about why the Wright State ex­ec­u­tives have been placed on leave.

“I don’t know what the specifics of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion (are),” he said.

The fis­cal 2015-2016 state bud­get is due June 30.

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