ORONO — University of Maine president Joan Ferrini-Mundy has announced the rebranding of the Office of Innovation and Economic Development as the Office of Strategic Partnerships, Innovation, Resources and Engagement. Building on the work OIED already does, SPIRE will be wholly focused on fulfilling the university’s service mission through a strong emphasis on strategic partnerships, and corporate and community engagement.

SPIRE will be led by vice president of innovation and economic development Jake Ward, in close collaboration with Renee Kelly, who is being elevated to associate vice president of strategic partnerships, innovation and engagement. Two of UMaine’s key industry service centers, the Process Development Center and the Advanced Manufacturing Center, join the Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research as part of SPIRE. The three facilities cater to existing and emerging sectors that are critical to Maine’s economy, and this structure will create operational efficiencies, as well as new opportunities to serve the state’s businesses.

In addition to continuing to manage development of UMaine research innovations and intellectual property, and support entrepreneurship across the University of Maine System, the office will lead corporate engagement for UMaine with the help of a new team member. John Burns, longtime managing director of Maine Venture Fund who also spent more than a decade as second vice president of investments at UNUM, recently joined UMaine as director of corporate engagement.

“Corporate Engagement at the University of Maine is about creating deeper, broader and meaningful holistic relationships between corporations and the University of Maine; partnering industry with UMaine talent,” says Burns. “Whether companies are seeking to increase visibility, recruit a trained and educated workforce, connect with research collaborators,or share expertise, UMaine has a plethora of incredible assets.” 

In this role, Burns will develop and lead a strategic approach to UMaine’s engagement with the business community in Maine and beyond, expanding and building broad and deep relationships with a set of key corporate partners. 

“OIED forges partnerships and innovative problem-solving to address needs ranging from an entrepreneur’s technology, to industry-wide interests and grand challenges like climate change,” says Renee Kelly, associate vice president for strategic partnerships, innovation, resources & engagement. “SPIRE will combine commercialization, industry partnerships and innovation resources to build alliances to grow Maine’s economy.”