Will Metcalf

Associate Vice President for Research Development and Strategic Partnerships

Will Metcalf is, in his own words, “all about impact.”

It’s not that he doesn’t understand or appreciate theory. He does. But he prefers to use it to help people address their actual challenges.

“I’m interested in applying the theory to make it possible and really giving people good experiences, helping students apply the things they learned and helping real clients with real problems,” Metcalf ’05, ’11 said.

He wears many hats at UofL, his alma mater, so there are lots of options for him to do impactful work in enabling others unleash their potential.

Metcalf is associate vice president for research development and strategic partnerships;  he also teaches in the Brandeis School of Law. He has applied his business administration degree and law degree here in many ways.

“Everything I do is focused on connecting the knowledge, expertise and talents of the university directly to the business community to solve big problems,” Metcalf said.

He and his teams, including several entrepreneurs in residence, work to understand what the community, say in health care or other sectors, might need in facing challenges ahead and then apply expertise to help them grow and adapt.

“I think a lot of what I do is around team building and community building,” Metcalf said.

The office also works with manufacturers grappling with an aging workforce and the need to shift or expand from traditional methods to better ways of doing things with modern technology so they can operate effectively.

Kentucky has more than 3,500 manufacturers employing about a half-million residents, Metcalf said, and the goal is to “touch every county in the state.”

With the help of grant funding, the teams are working to help manufacturers get ready for the “fourth industrial revolution,” sometimes called Industry 4.0, to leverage machine learning, robotics and automation, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and the “human-machine interface,” so that companies are prepared to progress and succeed.

Sometimes big business solutions start smaller. Within UofL’s Office of Research and Innovation, the New Ventures program works to support UofL startups, connecting them with experienced entrepreneurs and the community, helping them attract funding and market share and increasing their success.

Metcalf also directs the Entrepreneurship Law Clinic, where he supervises third-year law students who provide legal support for the Entrepreneurship MBA program at UofL’s College of Business and help people thorough the legal steps of launching their own companies.

That strategic arrangement benefits both the law students and their business clients, just as their post-university world might function.

“That’s the ecosystem I want to create,” Metcalf said.

Just as he gained valuable experience as a UofL student, Metcalf encourages the involvement of students in these efforts at the undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and postdoctoral levels.

“We’re creating that culture of innovation where everyone’s talking about the impact of ideas,” he said.

And it’s not just talk. The applied work through internships and other collaboration ventures can pay off for students during their years of study and into their future employment, positioning students for well-paying and significant jobs because of their extra experience and connections they’ve established.

“That exposure is really, really valuable for students,” Metcalf said, as they can feel “OK, this is why I’m learning this. It’s fun to see because they’re getting excited about what they’re doing,” he said.

Even beyond local, statewide and regional impact, Metcalf envisions UofL having more national impact.

“Yes, it’s local but I want it to have national reach where we’re seen as a thought leader,” Metcalf said. “It sounds ambitious but I think it’s achievable.”