University of Maine System Grand Challenge Pilot Initiative Launch

The University of Maine System (UMS) Research & Development Plan provides a roadmap for research and development at the state’s public universities to promote industry, business, and community growth in Maine. Advancing the goals articulated in the UMS R&D plan will require enhanced cooperation among System campuses and strong collaborative partnerships with external organizations and stakeholders. Long-term outcomes of the UMS R&D plan include attracting new people and financial resources to the state of Maine, addressing the current and future workforce needs of Maine, and elevating R&D activities across the System.  These outcomes are very much in line with the State of Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) economic development plan that will be finalized this fall.

The R&D Plan recommends that the System launch a series of grand challenges over the next decade as a central part of the plan’s implementation. Grand challenges are problems of global, national, and regional significance that require interdisciplinary teams to work together to develop and implement innovative solutions. Such initiatives are ambitious in scope, long-term in scale, and convergent in design. Research universities across the country are engaging in grand challenges focusing their research, education, and outreach efforts to promote discovery, develop the workforce, and engage the public in solving intractable societal problems.

With one-time funds available for FY 2020 through the Research Reinvestment Fund (RRF), the UMS will launch a Grand Challenge Pilot Initiative. The R&D plan provides several examples of Grand Challenges that could be addressed by the System over time. The RRF Grand Challenge Pilot Initiative integrates previously established competitive funding programs within RRF in an effort to focus investment, unify activities, promote convergence, and leverage established R&D strengths within the System. The RRF Grand Challenge Pilot Initiative will be a first key step to addressing Goal 1 of the UMS R&D Plan, “Make Maine the best state in the nation in which to live, work, and learn by 2030.”

The UMS has identified the central theme of “Rural Health and Wellbeing” for the FY 2020 RRF Grand Challenge Pilot Initiative to demonstrate this approach and build future grand challenge initiatives. The theme of Rural Health and Wellbeing will: 1. Address the demographic call to action articulated in the Board of Trustees Declaration of Strategic Priorities to Address Critical State Needs; 2. Bring together the R&D strengths that exist across the System; and 3. Aid in shaping the rural focus of the State of Maine’s Economic Development Strategic Plan.

UMS R&D Plan Having a Healthy Impact on Innovation and Collaboration

The University of Maine System (UMS) Research & Development Plan (R&D Plan), adopted by the Board of Trustees in May 2019, provides a road map for research and development at the state’s public universities to promote industry, business, and community growth in Maine. Advancing the goals articulated in the R&D Plan requires enhanced cooperation among System campuses, and strong collaborative partnerships with external organizations and stakeholders. Long-term outcomes of the R&D Plan include attracting new people and financial resources to the state, addressing the current and future workforce needs of Maine, and elevating R&D activities across the System. These outcomes are well aligned with the state of Maine’s 10-year Strategic Economic Development Plan released in December 2019 that focuses on promoting innovation and attracting talent to Maine.

The UMS R&D Plan recommends that the System launch a series of grand challenges over the next decade. Grand challenges are problems of global, national and regional significance that require interdisciplinary teams to work together to develop and implement innovative solutions. Such initiatives are ambitious in scope, long-term in scale and convergent in design. Research universities nationwide are engaging in grand challenges, focusing their research, education and outreach efforts to promote discovery, develop the workforce and engage the public in solving intractable societal problems.

With funds available for FY20 through the UMS Research Reinvestment Fund (RRF), the System launched a Grand Challenge Pilot Initiative with a central theme of Rural Health and Well-being to bring together R&D strengths related to this theme that exist across the System. A call for concept papers was announced in November 2019 that yielded 30 concept paper submissions from researchers across the System. 

On January 27th, 2020 UMS R&D Plan Implementation Director Jason Charland gave the Board an update on the three initial projects that were selected to receive competitive grant funds.  The three interdisciplinary projects will bring together R&D strengths from within the System and will forge key research collaborations with external partners.  Details of the selected projects are summarized below.

University of Maine System Injury Prevention Collaborative

UMS Injury Prevention Collaborative will organize and coordinate current System resources related to rural injury and violence prevention for better collaboration, more robust applications for external funding, greater opportunities for students, and greater impact on the safety and well being of Mainers.

Led by Marcella Sorg (UMaine) and Jamie Wren (UMaine)
Other team members:

  • USM: Judith Tupper, Elisabeth Snell, Mary Lindsey, George Shaler
  • UMPI: Nicole Fournier, Kim Jones
  • UMaine: Elizabeth Armstrong
  • External collaborators: Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Medical Examiner’s Office, Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

Expanding Telehealth Training and Use to Support Developmental and Emotional Needs of Children in Rural Maine Schools

Expanding Telehealth Training and Use to Support Development and Emotional Needs of Children in Rural Maine Schools will extend the System’s successful speech therapy telehealth training model to the System’s occupational therapy and social work graduate programs to pilot and evaluate in two Maine rural school districts.

Led by Kimberley Fox (USM), Yvonne Jonk (USM) and Judy Walker (UMaine);
Other team members:

  • USM: Mary Anderson, Sarah Grinder
  • UMaine: Sandra Butler, Janet Fairman, Patricia Lech, Craig Mason
  • External collaborator: Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Maine school districts

UMaine Medicine: Addressing Renal Disease, Metabolic Disorders, and Infectious Diseases Among Isolated Populations in Rural Maine

UMaine Medicine:  Addressing Renal Disease, Metabolic Disorders, and Infectious Diseases Among Isolated Populations in Rural Maine will develop transformative solutions that enhance the health and well-being of Maine citizens through innovative and coordinated research, education and strategic partnerships.

Led by Benjamin King (UMaine)
Other team members

  • UMaine: Robert Wheeler, Nishad Jayasundara, Kristy Townsend, David Harder
  • UMA: Con Sullivan
  • External collaborators: MDI Biological Laboratory, Jackson Laboratory, Maine Medical Center Research Institute, Northern Light Health