COLLEGE STATION, Texas—The Texas A&M Foundation has received commitments of $3 million from the Mays Family Foundation and $2.6 million from the Charles Koch Foundation to establish the Mays Innovation Research Center (MIRC) within the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.
With these contributions, both foundations continue their legacy of philanthropy at Texas A&M. In 2017, the Mays Family Foundation has given a record $25 million in support of Mays Business School, bringing its lifetime contributions to more than $50 million. This contribution marks the first gift from the Koch Foundation to Mays Business School, although the organization has supported other endeavors at Texas A&M.
Drawing from academic disciplines across the Texas A&M campus, MIRC will examine the nature of innovation. Research at the center will focus on how innovation advances human potential; the essential conditions necessary for innovation to flourish; how innovation spreads; and the social, economic and legal frameworks necessary to support innovation. Many traditional university innovation centers focus on teaching the history, theory and practice of innovation. By contrast, MIRC is a research-oriented academic center that will engage in the study of innovation to advance knowledge in this important field.
“We are delighted to launch this exciting research center that can support teaching and research at Texas A&M University and speak to issues of national and state importance,” said Eli Jones, dean of Mays Business School. “Our goal is to understand the true nature of innovation and investigate how innovation spreads through society, who benefits from innovation, the barriers to innovation, and corporate and government policies that can induce innovation.”
Conceptualized by Dr. Korok Ray, an associate professor of accounting in Mays Business School, the center will provide research support to existing faculty across the university; support new faculty in engineering, business, liberal arts and other academic disciplines; fund Ph.D. fellowship and undergraduate research opportunities; and award prizes for outstanding research that advances the center’s mission.
“Part of our mission is to discover how and when innovation occurs and then transfer this knowledge to students. The center will also host events, speakers and programs that bring people together to best understand the true nature of innovation,” added Dean Jones. “Through their generosity, these two foundations are helping us create an ecosystem around innovation at Mays that students can seamlessly plug into.”
The MIRC’s research agenda will also complement the educational mission of Texas A&M’s recently established School of Innovation, or I-School. “The combination of the center and the I-School will give the university a fantastic opportunity to be a leader in innovation,” said Andy Morriss, I-School dean.
The Charles Koch Foundation supports students and scholars through academic grants and educational initiatives at more than 300 universities and colleges across the country. “We are proud to partner with the Mays family to support the exciting vision of Texas A&M and its scholars,” said Charles Koch Foundation President Brian Hooks.
The Mays Family Foundation’s mission is to support communities and serve through causes that aid, empower, enrich and educate. The organization was established in 1994 by Lowry Mays, a 1957 graduate of Texas A&M’s business school, and his wife Peggy to perpetuate their personal philanthropy.
“I’m very excited about our accomplishments in setting up the center of innovation at Mays Business School with the Koch Foundation,” said Lowry Mays. “Our common goal in this effort made it easy to achieve. I’m interested in innovation and entrepreneurship because it gives students an opportunity to think about what they want to do and start putting together the groundwork for starting their own businesses.”
With innovation a central factor in economic growth, it is incumbent on universities to participate in the growing national conversation about entrepreneurship, especially research institutions like Texas A&M with strengths in business, engineering and the social sciences.
“Aggies have always sought to improve the well-being of individuals and societies,” said Tyson Voelkel, president of the Texas A&M Foundation. “Now, this center provides us with the perfect framework to study innovation and distribute this incredibly valuable information. We are tremendously grateful for the support of these two foundations and their confidence in Texas A&M.”