Getting to know Matt McKillip, director of research relations
Matt McKillip had a long and varied career before becoming the college’s director of research relations in July 2009. From serving as mayor of Kokomo, Ind., to founding and running two high-tech firms, to working internationally with Proctor and Gamble, Matt has built a resume full of innovation and a Rolodex full of industry contacts. A graduate of Purdue’s computer and information technology program, he was named a Distinguished Technology Alumnus in 2005. He and his wife, Heather, have one daughter, Sara.
My job title: It means building extraordinary and collaborative relationships with virtually any of the college’s contacts, external and internal. I work to develop relationships that will grow our research footprint, whether it is with other faculty, other colleges, non-profits, corporations, small start-ups or funding agencies.
My mission: A lot of it is to create the activities that will deliver specific outcomes, like getting our funded research to $15 million by 2014. When I started, my focus was on information technology research opportunities and health care opportunities. We’ve added aviation technology, alternative energy/biofuels and sustainability. I ask faculty to think of their research with an end in mind, such as how it can be applied in a specific industry segment or can help innovate a specific industry or company. And then I ask the faculty to consider how we can commercialize their research. With my experience, I can help guide some of our research down the road of commercialization. Even if the professor doesn’t want to own a company, the technology can be commercialized and help society. At Purdue, we work for the greater good. It’s a mission that is so important and vital that it gives me a sense of accomplishment every day.
On networking: During the first few months — and I’m still doing this — I was involved with becoming familiar with faculty and their current research and research interests as well as similar research being done at Purdue. I then use my existing contacts in industry to have conversations about our research. Then, I can take information about industry’s needs and turn it into language our researchers can use. These partnerships take time to develop the trust needed for pilot project. I’ve been working on a collaborative effort for over a year, and we’re starting to have some discussion of an innovation center from that. Because of my early meetings with faculty, as I spoke with this partner, I could envision faculty who could contribute to goals the partner is trying to achieve. If faculty are willing to talk about and share their industry relationships with me, we can look for additional and bigger opportunities that will benefit the faculty member, the college, Purdue and our partner.
On personal fulfillment: I have a daughter who is 2 1/2 years old, and I love to spend time with her and with my wife, Heather. Pets have been a big part of our life, and we just got an Irish terrier pup. I also love to travel and take pictures while we travel. For me, Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, across the border from Glacier National Park, is the most beautiful spot in the world. I like to go back there every so often to reconnect and reboot. And with my many ties to Portugal, I thoroughly enjoy getting back to my adopted homeland and many friends there.