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Mote partnership expands USF research opportunities

USF and Mote Marine Laboratory are joining forces, according to a recent report from both institutions. The two parties are in discussion about the formation of a Direct Service Organization (DSO) that would combine the research abilities of both institutions as well as the resources of several USF colleges.

Mote is a not-for-profit organization with more than $10 million in grants. They operate seven research centers that concentrate on near-shore marine research and marine policy. Mote and USF have been working together since the 1970’s. Their most recent project was in 2006 when they formed the Joint Center for Coastal Ocean Studies to study ocean physics, chemistry and biology.

The executive vice president of research at Mote, Dr. Glen Shen, said that the purpose of the proposed agreement was to strengthen and solidify the ongoing partnership between the two institutions. Shen also said that the DSO wouldn’t be exclusively between Mote and the College of Marine Science. The purpose of the DSO is to combine all the resources of both institutions. For example, if Mote researchers were studying something that had a commercial application, they might work with the College of Business to create a business development plan.

Shen said that the DSO would have extensive benefits for the University as well. This new partnership would allow students and professors to work with Mote researchers and policy makers to acquire a more practical understanding of their own field of study.

Mote has an established aquaculture program, and the College of Health and the College of Business have been interested in working with Mote scientists to create practical applications with this research.

“It’s beyond casual,” Shen said. “It allows us to start working with each other on a broader basis.”

The USF administration is equally pleased with the proposed deal.

“As one of the nation’s top research universities with a strong College of Marine Science, USF is a natural fit with Mote Marine Laboratory in creating this Direct Support Organization,” USF President Judy Genshaft said.

The partnership still has a long way to go until it’s created. The two parties have agreed on the framework of six different principles. During the next few months there will be formal discussions involving the logistical details of contracts, leases and services between the two institutions.

After the details of this arrangement are worked out, the board of trustees at both institutions will need to approve the DSO. Then the partnership will have to lobby the state appropriations committee for $10 million in initial funding, plus an additional $6 million per year. That will require the approval of both the Florida Legislature and Gov. Charlie Crist. Shen said that he is confident that the funding will be provided. Both groups have lobbying delegations that will work to convince state lawmakers of the need to build the organization.