What's Happening This Week: 10/13/19

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Profile of the Week

Name:  Dr. Suzanne Rivera
Current Job: Vice President for Research and Technology Management, CWRU
Favorite restaurant in town?  Felice in Larchmere
Favorite thing about Cleveland?
  I love Cleveland’s grit and can-do spirit.  I always root for the underdog!

Q: Suzanne, you have a really interesting role as Vice President for Research and Technology Management at Case Western Reserve University? Can you tell the readers about your role? I think I’ve got the greatest job in the world.  I support research and scholarship across all of our schools and the college, so I get to learn new things every day.  Whether a project is about engineering or poetry or medicine—it doesn’t matter.  I dig in and learn about the topic so I can support the work our faculty and students are pursuing.  I also help with taking our inventions and discoveries out of the university where they can benefit people by licensing our IP to companies, whether start-ups or established enterprises.  That is especially gratifying because then I can see that our work really has impact.

Q: I think that you have such a fantastic background. You grew up in an immigrant family and were on public assistance as a child but then you went on to earn a Ph.D. and serve in a senior role at a prestigious academic institution. What advice would you have for people who come from low-income backgrounds who are looking to move into a position such as the one you have? I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given.  The most important advice I can give is to get as much education as your circumstances allow.  And cultivate your tenacity.  I didn’t go back for my Ph.D. until I was a 35-year old mother of two school-aged kids.  It was tough but worth it.  My degrees don’t make me any more important than anybody else, but my schooling has opened doors of possibility that I never imagined as a child. 

Q: Can you talk about some of the great intellectual property that has been spun out of Case Western? There is so much! People may not realize that more than 60 patents are issued to CWRU each year.  As far as companies spinning out of the university based on faculty IP, we’ve had more than 35 in the last five years. I am amazed by the breadth of technologies that have been developed at CWRU, from medical applications to innovations in manufacturing and energy.  One spin-off we are watching keenly right now is Folio Photonics. They are reinventing data archiving with a new optical storage solution.

Q: One of your responsibilities at Case Western Reserve is public affairs. What is some policy (either at a state or federal level) that you would like implemented that could spur more innovation at the university level? I believe strongly that immigrants make America great.  I think we need to create immigration policies that allow US universities to attract talent from all over the world, and then make it easy for our graduates and foreign faculty to get on a path to citizenship so they can put down roots and contribute to the economic development of the country.

Q: Suzanne, I know that CWRU is strong in STEM but you’ve recently been working hard at advancing the idea of a “tech-plus” approach to innovation.  Can you explain that concept? Sure.  What we mean by “tech-plus” is an interdisciplinary approach that brings together experts from different fields and end-users to look at technology through the lens of impact on humanity.  What are the ethical, legal, and social implications?  How will this technology be used?  Can it be made accessible in an equitable way? Would anyone be harmed by it and what can we do to mitigate the risks?  That kind of approach to technology development can only be undertaken if you have a variety of people around the table—including stakeholders from outside the university.

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About The Author

My name is Ari Lewis and I do comms/pr for technology companies and am a partner at venture capital firm focused on blockchain companies. Follow me on twitter @amlewis4 or connect with me on LinkedIn. Always open to meeting new folks. Email me if you want to get coffee.