As we slowly begin to emerge from the global COVID-19 pandemic, we have borne witness to the importance of scientific inquiry and discovery in the fight to end this crisis. But research is much more than developing vaccines. It is also a driver of innovation, new discoveries, learning, workforce development and economic diversification.
In fiscal year 2020, University of Hawai‘i (UH) research expenditures totaled over $485 million and according to a recent report published by the University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization, those research expenditures generated $735 million in total business sales, $237 million in employee earnings and $42 million in state tax revenue; and supported an estimated 5,400 jobs in the islands. Our ongoing efforts to grow a new, diverse and dynamic job sector based on the commercialization of UH-based research innovations will play a key role in the state’s post-pandemic economic revitalization efforts.
Because Hawai‘i is an island state, often considered as one of the most geographically isolated population centers on Earth, it is extremely vulnerable to climate change and its increasingly catastrophic effects on our ecosystems and environment—with issues like extreme weather, ocean acidification, sea level rise, coral bleaching and a loss of biodiversity on land and in the sea that pose an even larger threat to our sustainability. To solve some of these problems, we sometimes need to look back at our past in order to shape our future.
In ancient Hawai‘i, a robust and fully self-sustaining ecosystem centered around a set of revered cultural practices that included mālama‘āina (care of the land) and kuleana (a person’s responsibility to themselves and their community) that contributed to an efficient and effective natural resources management system. Today, UH researchers, staff and students are applying a similar set of core values in the field and in their laboratories as they collaboratively work to better understand the changes in our environment and to develop sustainable solutions to protect our shorelines, oceans, forests, freshwater sources and other natural habitats—not only in Hawai‘i—but around the world.
In the following pages, take a look at a sampling of our body of work and learn how our research makes the University of Hawai‘i—like no place else on Earth.
Vassilis L. Syrmos, PhD
Vice President for Research and Innovation
University of Hawai‘i System