Scientific Community Collaborates to Compete

Construction is underway on a building at the edge of the Texas Medical Center where all the major research institutions in the city are expected to converge together. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, the Collaborative Research Center is the project of the newest member of the medical center, Rice University.

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Rice University Provost Eugene Levy is of the opinion the medical and academic institutions in Houston need to accelerate and improve collaborative projects.

"We have this fortuitous circumstance here that within this region around the Texas Medical Center and Rice University and reaching out a little bit farther to the University of Houston and to UTMB, we have within that envelope of space, all the capabilities that are needed to make very important advances in these areas. But in order to capitalize on those complimentary capabilities, we need to seriously jack up the level of inter-institutional collaboration."

So Rice University is undertaking the construction of a Collaborative Research Center. The 10-story, 477,000 square foot building will bridge the work of the biomedical field and the physical sciences. It's the first attempt in Houston to bring those disciplines quite literally under one roof. Baylor College of Medicine's Senior Vice President and Dean of Research Jim Patrick says they are excited about the research possibilities which could result.

"What we would hope is that this kind of a center would make it easier for people to recruit scientists from outside the state of Texas, and reduce recruiting of scientists from one institution in Houston to another institution in Houston. And the goal is to increase the total amount of research in the city of Houston and you don't do that by moving a scientist from one place to another."

The plans for the CRC are forward-thinking. Rice is including two floors of shell space for future expansion. And the building will be designed in such a way that a second wing or tower could be added on later if needed. Levy admits collaboration is not a new idea, but he thinks this kind of partnership gives Houston a competitive edge it hasn't had before.

"We need to have a level of inter-institutional, inter-disciplinary collaboration that is much larger than it has been in the past if we're going to be truly competitive, if we're going to make Houston truly competitive in the national and international landscape. And one of the reasons is that we're competing with say, for example, Stanford which actually has everything on one campus. And I could go -- you know -- University of California, San Diego and University of Washington, Seattle, the Boston/Harvard/MIT axis -- you know I could go on and on and on."

The CRC is under construction at the corner of Main and University. It should be complete in about two years. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...