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Merger gives Rutgers chance to present new face to business community

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Rutgers University is transforming relations with the business community, thanks to its merger with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, a school official told a gathering of entrepreneurs today.

Christopher Molloy, Rutgers senior vice president of research and economic development, said the school's combination July 1 with the former UMDNJ, a state-run health and sciences institution, provides a more credible platform to engage the private sector.

"The bottom line is Rutgers is open for business, and I think you're going to find Rutgers has changed a great deal," Molloy said.

The combined entity receives about $700 million annually in federal funding from various agencies — a level that ranks among the top 25 universities in the country, but has long lagged in attracting corporate support, Molloy said.

Molloy said the merger allows opportunity to better centralize its public-private partnerships and "break down a bunch of silos that have existed within the university."

"It's certainly high time," he said. "What we're trying to accomplish is to recreate Rutgers into being an economic development engine as well as an academic engine."

Molloy said the university will do a better job of making known its intellectual property and scientific resources that can benefit business, including employing more staff scientists — apart from the teaching faculty — who are available for external contracts and partnerships. He said Rutgers employs six such scientists now, but to plans to add more.

The school also needs to step up its partnerships with economic advocacy groups like Choose New Jersey as well as the governor and lieutenant governor's office.

"New Jersey finally has its Penn State and Ohio State," said Molloy, noting that the school's entry into the Big 10 conference is one year away.

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The event today at the university's student center on College Avenue in New Brunswick also included speeches and panels consisting of investors and executives as well as networking opportunities.

"I want to hear from you about how Rutgers can better interact with industry, with innovative, startup companies," Molloy said. "We want to bring know how and entrepreneurship back to a state where there is a lot of talent, student talent and professional talent."

"We know we can't grow by adding tuition dollars from our students," he said. "We have to reinvent ourselves with growth and partnerships."

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