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Sylvia Thomas on Competing in the Next Economy

Dr. Sylvia Thomas

Interim Vice President for Research & Innovation, University of South Florida

Members of the Council on Competitiveness Board and Executive Committee, and Commissioners and Advisors from the National Commission on Innovation and Competitiveness Frontiers came together this summer at Gallup World Headquarters to take stock of the Council’s work and explore the challenges and opportunities driving Phase 2 of the National Commission’s work.

During the meeting, Dr. Sylvia Thomas, Interim Vice President for Research & Innovation, University of South Florida, shared areas of priority happening at the University of South Florida, particularly around advancing cybersecurity and building partnerships with other local leaders. Here’s a summary of her comments:

- Creating an ecosystem for cybersecurity. The University of South Florida is focused on cybersecurity because an underlying issue in AI, health tech, fintech, data mining, and semiconductors is being able to protect those assets. At the University of South Florida, they are looking to expand and tap tech hubs and innovation districts across the state to bring industry, government, and K-12 education leaders together to accelerate research translation — going from bench to market idea to product in a consortium that works across those alliances.

- Engaging underserved and diverse communities. There are communities that do not have an association with innovation or know what it means to be an innovation leader. The University of South Florida is doing more to bring innovation thinking into those communities, because we are missing out on the creativity and innovation that can come through those communities. For example, the university is working with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to go into internet deserts, look at establishing innovation labs in those communities, and talking with K-12 leaders through its Ignite program about opportunities to bring innovation ideas and mindset into their classrooms so that young people can continue to dream and be creative.

Additionally, the university has a great opportunity working with MacDill Air Force Base, SOUTHCOM, and CENTCOM in cybersecurity. These are partnerships where the university can tap into the Missing Millions.

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