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Updated: April 6, 2020 / 2020 Women in Business Awards

Maric leads UConn’s research, innovation and entrepreneurship

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Radenka Maric Q&A
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As an engineer, Radenka Maric has seen her work incorporated into cutting-edge car engines that tap into hydrogen fuel cells for power.

As a senior executive at the University of Connecticut, Maric has seen her work both in the institution’s burgeoning research portfolio and the proud faces of graduating undergraduate and graduate students.

“People can make a difference when they have education and knowledge,” Maric said. “For me, it’s a guiding principle to help as many people as I can get educated.”

Maric brings her passion for both education and engineering into her position as vice president for research, innovation and entrepreneurship at UConn. She manages a staff of 250 and oversees the university’s $260 million in research programs at the Storrs main campus and UConn Health in Farmington.

Along with UConn President Thomas Katsouleas, Maric aims to double the university’s research spending over the next decade.

“She’s a dedicated researcher, a very, very good executive and a very good leader for our research enterprise,” said S. Pamir Alpay, UConn associate dean for research and industrial partnerships.

“UConn is not just an educational institution — invention happens at UConn,” Maric said. “There is a lot of creative work, a lot of startup companies, … and those startup companies are going to have a huge benefit for the economy of Connecticut.”

Maric attributes her success both in the lab and the executive suite to time spent at startups and a lifelong love of science. Born in the former Yugoslavia, she developed an interest in technology and clean energy as a young child when she took note of the clouds of pollution produced by diesel cars and trucks, then in widespread use in Europe.

“I was always passionate about the environment,” Maric said. “Every time I passed by a car and smelled the exhaust, I was thinking there needed to be a more elegant solution.”

After graduating from Belgrade University, the young scientist headed to Japan, where the advancement of clean-energy technology was a national priority.

She spent 12 years at the University of Kyoto working on hydrogen fuel-cell innovations before heading to the United States in 2001 to work at a clean-energy startup. She then served as head of the Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation at the National Research Council Canada in Vancouver.

UConn’s pioneering research history in hydrogen fuel cells and the warmth of STEM faculty members helped bring Maric to Storrs in 2010.

In addition to work with students and her own research, Maric’s current responsibilities include guiding the Innovation Partnership Building at UConn Tech Park, a center for academic-industry collaboration with more than $80 million in industry and federal research projects. She also heads the Technology Incubation Program, the state’s largest university startup effort.

Maric balances her administrative duties with an active research portfolio including major grants from the Department of Energy. During her career she has been awarded more than $40 million in research funding, published more than 300 articles and registered six patents, in addition to establishing an “industrial-scale” facility at UConn to fabricate clean-energy materials.

Maric is also focused on the mental health of students at all levels who struggle with financial and emotional issues. She established the Dr. Radenka Maric Graduate Fellowship last year to both provide financial assistance and a forum for social interaction and professional development.

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