In Latest Grand Challenge, UVA Focuses on Health, Digital Tech To Help Communities

February 14, 2023 By Eric Williamson, williamson@virginia.edu Eric Williamson, williamson@virginia.edu

The University of Virginia is seeking input from its faculty about its latest round of Grand Challenges Research Initiatives, which will emphasize health, as well as digital technology.

Provost Ian Baucom and Vice President for Research Melur K. “Ram” Ramasubramanian put out the call last week for faculty members to utilize the institution’s strengths and imagine ambitious research initiatives that will lead to new knowledge and help UVA achieve its mission to be great and good.

“Grand Challenges provide an opportunity for faculty to come together across disciplines and schools to address some of society’s most urgent questions,” Baucom said. “They let us build on our strengths and imagine a different future, one that directly helps communities.”

As part of the precision medicine/health Grand Challenge, the University will invest in the recently announced Paul and Diane Manning Institute of Biotechnology.

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In addition, four other potential areas of focus have been identified within the realm of health and digital technology. They are: precision health for populations; digital technology and democracy; smart communities (associated with electronic connectedness); and digital technology and youth development.

“UVA has strengths in each of these four areas,” Ramasubramanian said. “We believe that by bringing faculty together from different disciplines around a common problem, we can unleash our potential to become preeminent in these areas.”

Possibilities abound for the research. In the development of “smart” communities, for example, researchers might ask how networked sensors and technologies could help communities become safer, more resilient and more equitable.

UVA’s research leadership seeks diverse, creative research ideas and invites the suggestions of all faculty as the goals and projects are further defined.

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The research initiatives must not only build on the University’s existing strengths, but they must be multidisciplinary and involve multiple UVA schools. They must target areas where UVA has an opportunity to be preeminent and address pressing problems or relevant concerns that support the University’s 2030 Plan, known as the “Great and Good Plan.”

Seeking Your Input

Interested members of the UVA community can contribute by submitting comments and ideas online or by participating in an upcoming virtual event. 

The University has scheduled two days of in-person forums with opportunities for input, discussion and collaboration. They will take place Feb. 24 (Digital Technology and Democracy and Precision Health for Populations) and March 1 (Smart Communities/Smart Spaces and Digital Technology, Youth & Development).

Further information about upcoming events will be posted to the Grand Challenges website as details become available.

Building on Previous Investments

The Grand Challenges Research Initiatives were first announced in 2021.

Since then, research leaders have earmarked more than $150 million for Grand Challenges research in democracy, the brain and neuroscience, and environmental resilience and sustainability.

Media Contact

Eric Williamson

University News Senior Associate University Communications