Brandy Salmon, a former director and program lead at RTI International, has joined Virginia Tech as executive director of the university’s new business engagement center. Her appointment was effective June 13, following a nationwide search.

As executive director of the business engagement center, Salmon will build a team of business development directors who will serve as primary points of contact for companies interested in a wide range of partnership opportunities with Virginia Tech. The center will have tools, resources, and insight that will help identify and structure these partnerships.

Salmon has more than a decade of experience building relationships between industry and researchers, most recently for RTI International, where she guided diverse teams through more than 100 projects with Fortune 500 firms, globally.

Plans to create Virginia Tech’s business engagement center were announced in January. It is a major part of the university’s strategic push to expand and integrate corporate partnerships.

“I’ve been interested in what’s going on at Virginia Tech for some time, and am excited by its commitment to building a best-in-class model for industry engagement,” Salmon said. “There’s an emphasis at Tech on thinking comprehensively about how to engage industry with a university community. There is tremendous opportunity to bring value to both sides.”

RTI is a nonprofit research institute jointly founded by Duke University, the University of North Carolina, and North Carolina State University to help apply and commercialize research. Before joining RTI, Salmon served as associate director for the Office of Licensing and Ventures at Duke. Her earlier experience in industry includes working in marketing at Merck & Company and in business development at a startup, Divergence LLC, which was later acquired by Monsanto. Salmon has a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Virginia, a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from Cornell University, and an M.B.A. from Duke.

“The ability to bring together researchers, university leadership, and corporate executives will be key to the success of our business engagement center,” said Virginia Tech Vice President for Research and Innovation Theresa Mayer. “Each of those areas have their own characteristics and cultural norms. Brandy’s professional and educational background has given her an extraordinary level of firsthand experience to draw upon. We are confident that she will excel in this important new role.”

Salmon will jointly report to Mayer and Vice President for Advancement Charlie Phlegar. The business engagement center has been created to make it easier for companies to partner with Virginia Tech in a variety of areas, including research and philanthropy.

Salmon will be responsible for developing the center and hiring business development directors, who together with industry partners will find new ways to create value. Some of the team members will be based in Blacksburg and others will be in the National Capital Region, where Virginia Tech has multiple research and graduate education facilities.

Salmon believes that, along with its strengths in research, Virginia Tech’s presence throughout the state, its highly regarded students, and its global mindset are important components for attracting major firms.

“Companies don’t want you to be just in one place,” she said. “They want you to come to them. We should be sure to be ready to be out there and to interact in their space, with their teams. You build relationships through interaction.”

Robert Taber worked closely with Salmon while serving as vice chancellor of corporate and venture development at Duke University Medical Center.

“She was always someone I wanted involved with our best opportunities,” Taber said. “I think her taking this job is great for both Virginia Tech and Brandy. She’s really smart and has the background to work with scientists and engineers and get their respect, but also has the interpersonal skills and business understanding to thrive on the corporate-interaction side.”

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