Award Gallery

Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young - USDA Agricultural Research Service

Award: Laboratory Director of the Year

Year: 2016

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) broadly defines technology transfer as the adoption of research outcomes (i.e., solutions) for public benefit.

While seemingly a simple statement, the process of adoption is complicated, requiring the integration of many assets from disparate sources to successfully deliver solutions. USDA can seldom transfer solutions to the end user alone. Science-based innovations from USDA intramural research—often developed through public/private partnerships—create new or improved technologies, processes, products and services that benefit the nation by increasing productivity, increasing efficiency, and enhancing global competitiveness for the U.S. agriculture sector.

As Administrator for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young provides executive leadership for the USDA intramural research program. She encourages and fosters multidisciplinary research, and is responsible for ensuring that the research program is linked to administrative policy objectives.

At the outset of her tenure as Administrator, Dr. Jacobs-Young personally held dozens of listening sessions and directed her executive leadership group to do the same with their employees, documenting input and then producing first a 100-day plan for actions, then a calendar year plan for each year thereafter. Many new initiatives were enacted as a result, including an Abraham Lincoln Honor Award-winning program called Inform & Engage, whereby small groups of employees have a forum to discuss issues with the Administrators via webinar. Another result was the establishment of improved agency-wide communication by establishing ARS’s first intranet (Axon).

As Administrator for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young provides executive leadership for the USDA intramural research program.

Dr. Jacobs-Young’s activities in support of technology transfer and federal R&D have been continuous and strong throughout her career as a senior executive, advisor, professor and scientist. She established the USDA’s Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) and served as its first Director from 2010-2012. During that time, she effectively built strong partnerships within the scientific community and firmly established OCS as a point of contact for interactions with the White House, other science agencies, universities, and other external members of the scientific community for the purpose of leveraging resources and promoting relationships to explore common scientific interests and shared goals.

Recently, Dr. Jacobs-Young established the ARS Innovation Fund. The purpose of the fund is to enhance the commercial potential of an agricultural solution currently under development at ARS, with the ultimate aim being to facilitate the adoption of ARS’s research by industry, academia and other stakeholders.

In the first round of funding, 66 applications were received and reviewed by an evaluation panel that considered the impact of the fund on enhancing the commercial potential of the technologies. Ten proposals, between $15,000-25,000 each, were selected for funding, which included the design and development of publicly facing web pages; market analysis of the perception of stakeholders to new platform technology; pre-commercial testing and scale-up; purchase of equipment for commercial evaluation; and creation of a prototype.