Q: What are you announcing today?
The Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact at the University of Oregon is an ambitious initiative to fast-track scientific discoveries and turn them into innovations that solve problems and improve the quality of life for people in Oregon, the nation and the world. The new campus is made possible by an extraordinary $500 million lead gift from Penny and Phil Knight, BBA ’59, the largest ever made to a public flagship university.
Q. Why are the Knights giving to this project?
Penny and Phil Knight have made some of the largest gifts from individuals to the University of Oregon, transforming the lives of students and faculty and community members through generous philanthropic support that spans athletics and academics. This gift invests in Oregon’s greatest strengths: deep skill and talent in discovery-based science and a 50-year history of breakthroughs stemming from collaborative, interdisciplinary research. This gift creates vast potential for accelerating discoveries and translating them into benefits for society. By creating new possibilities for partnerships with state institutions and businesses, it positions the state of Oregon to become a center of interdisciplinary scientific research.
Beyond their giving to the University of Oregon, the Knights have shown exceptional commitment to philanthropy, investing more than $1 billion as a means to make the world healthier (through the Knight Cancer Institute at the Oregon Health and Science University) and better educated (the Knight-Hennessy Scholars at Stanford). We are deeply moved and honored by their investment in the Knight Campus.
Q: Why now?
We’ve had ambitions for a project of this magnitude for some time, and now—with an independent board of trustees, the leadership of President Mike Schill, the right talent and vision, and most important, the backing and investment of game-changing donors—we are well-suited to realize these ambitions and create a greater impact on the world.
Q: What is the Knight Campus?
The Knight Campus is a campus within a campus that will work to reshape the state’s public higher-education landscape by training the next generation of scientists, forging tighter ties with industry and entrepreneurs and creating new educational opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students. This is a defining moment for the University of Oregon.
Q: What will be the focus?
The Knight Campus will speed up something we call the “impact cycle,” allowing the UO to accelerate the cycle of discovery and the transition to a product, innovation or cure, providing the talent and resources to see our research and knowledge realized for the greater good. In addition, it will build on established research ties with Oregon Health and Science University, Oregon State University, Portland State University and an emerging tech sector to serve as a catalyst for the state’s economy and a critical part of the state’s innovation network.
The Knight Campus will build new research facilities and training programs that will benefit the entire campus, with initial hiring of new faculty members concentrated in the life sciences and computational and data science, with strong expansion into the physical sciences as the program develops.
Q: What are the first steps for bringing the Knight Campus to life?
We will launch a national search immediately for a world-class scientist to lead the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. In addition, we will seek state support for a new science building that will be part of the Knight Campus. Concurrently, we will raise funds to complete the long-term vision for the campus. We will also assemble an advisory committee that will look at initial faculty appointments within the Knight Campus.
Q: What kinds of facilities will you have?
The Knight Campus will include a radical transformation of the land adjacent to the current science complex across Franklin Boulevard at the northeast corner of campus: three state-of-the-art buildings to house advanced core research laboratories, precision prototyping and imaging facilities, human subject interaction spaces and an innovation hub. They will be designed to accelerate interdisciplinary research and to fast-track discoveries into realworld applications.
Q: What is the overall goal?
We have several goals with the Knight Campus, including the following:
- Uncover new discoveries that will quickly translate into new technologies, treatments, and materials that will improve our world and, ultimately, the human condition.
- Generate a highly skilled workforce of master’s- and PhD-level cross-disciplinary scientists trained to tackle society’s most challenging problems.
- Foster new business creation and economic activity throughout Oregon.
- Create direct and indirect economic development for Eugene, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.
Q: Will this have an impact on other projects for which the university is raising funds? Will this take away from other projects?
The Knight Campus will not take dollars away from other units on campus, nor will it change the UO’s broader fundraising strategy and goals. While this $500 million gift is included in our $2 billion campaign, there is still a great deal of work to do. This initiative addresses some of the goals, needs, and priorities outlined at the beginning of the campaign, but it does not address many of the specific goals of the colleges, schools, museums, libraries and other areas of the university. Continued philanthropic support—at all levels—is critical to ensuring that priorities are met to keep the University of Oregon on the forefront of innovation.
Q: Who will the Knight Campus serve?
The Knight Campus will serve the campus, the state, our society, and the world. When fully staffed, it will be a magnet that attracts hundreds of scientific and visionary minds to campus—faculty members, graduate students and postdoctorate scholars, researchers, scientists and entrepreneurs—working together to speed innovations to market while also enhancing the scope and impact of the basic sciences on campus.
Q: How many people will you hire? How many students will be served?
When fully staffed, the Knight Campus will be home to
- 300 employees, including 30 new research scientists and their teams
- 250 graduate students
- 150 undergraduates
- 150 postdoctoral scholars
- 100 staff scientists
Q: What is the timeline for this project?
This is something that will unfold over the next decade. The search for a new executive director begins immediately, and we aim to have the first of three buildings operational within three years. We also anticipate that we will start recruiting and hiring researchers and staff members for the Knight Campus during that time as well. This is not something that has a “finish line,” as this will be the catalyst for research innovation for decades to come.
Q: How will this affect Oregon’s economy?
The Eugene-Springfield area will continue to grow as a home for new high-tech companies and outposts of existing companies as we spin off new technologies and leverage the excellence of our shared facilities. During peak construction, the Knight Campus will directly contribute $99.7 million in annual economic activity to Oregon’s economy, which will support more than 1,300 jobs. When fully operational, the Knight Campus will drive nearly $80 million in annual economic activity statewide and support more than 750 jobs.
The Knight Campus will serve as a launch point for incubating new Oregon-based companies and as a training ground for a new generation of scientific entrepreneurs.