Sunday, July 7, 2013

Naming Rights

(Thanks to the July issue of WIRED magazine for the tip-off)
(Check updates, below, for folks who've reminded me of more chemist-named facilities)

Andre Young and Jimmy Iovino:
Music Entrepreneurs / Academy Founders
(Wonder which guy gets to set the new dress code?)
Credit: Sam Jones | USC
Could you receive a doctorate from Dr. Dre?
Not yet, but maybe soon...

I somehow missed the announcement a few months ago:
Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovino, two highly successful music entrepreneurs, donated a chunk of change to USC. The result? The USC Iovino Young Academy for Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation.
(Tagline: The Degree Is In Disruption.)

The program creates an L.A-based  incubator, with courses like "Marketing Radical Innovations," and "Managing New Enterprises." The students spend their fourth year working, quite literally, in a space dubbed "The Garage," filled with tools, gadgets, computers, and other budding entrepreneurs.

How much did this new Academy set Jimmy and Dre back? A cool $70 million. Not too shabby, for two guys who never went to college.

This got me thinking: Do chemists ever buy naming rights?

Most of us would be content to be known for a specific reaction or process - 'named reaction' books get reprinted almost annually. Sometimes well-known professors sponsor or are honored with named professorships, such as the Cram or Vedejs Chairs. One famous Nobelist even garnered his own Institute. Rarer still, chemists whose research translates into industry can name buildings (Silverman Hall), institutes (Warner-Babcock), or create charitable organizations (the Kenan Trust).

But, sponsoring entire academic programs? The only chemist* I can recall doing that is Jack Welch, with two programs: a "Management Institute" at Strayer, and the business school at Sacred Heart.

Too much money? Admittedly, most chemists only make a fraction of $70 mil over the course of a career. But, the top dogs at large chemical companies might come closer. So, how about it, guys? Who wants to see the Liveris Institute? The Svanberg Charitable Trust?

Better still? The Witty Professorship (that one just writes itself!)

*OK, OK, he's Chem-E. Close enough for this discussion.

1. Updates (7/7/13) - On the twitterz, James Banal points out that Ahmed Zewail (1999 Chem Nobel) has a Research Park ("city") named for him.
2. Learned that Jack Welch also named a business school at SHU. Text edited to reflect same.
3. On Twitter, Matt Hartings points to the Beckman Institute (Illinois and CA!), and Moore Centre (Cambridge) / Moore Labs (CalTech)
4. In the Comments, CE points out the (ironic) exclusion of one Alfred Nobel, he of the eponymous Prize, and Max Planck, he of the eponymous Institute.
5. Anon points to the Sanger Institute, the Curie Institute, and the Lawrence Livermore Nat'l Lab.


  1. Another question: Was the big pharma boom long enough before stadium naming rights were so pervasive? Or did drug companies just never bother naming stadiums?

    Pfizer Field (in NJ for the Giants or Jets, I presume) or the AstraZeneca-dome (Phoenix of course) sound pretty catchy, no?

    1. Pfizer Field does have a rather pleasing alliteration. GSK Green, for golf? Also, I'd expect the Astra-Dome to be in Houston, not Phoenix!

    2. Only 'cause it would be the AZ-Dome for short.

    3. There was the Amgen Tour de France for a quite a few years...

  2. CoulombicExplosionJuly 08, 2013 10:38 AM

    I found it ironic that you mention a Nobelist in an article about chemists and naming rights, and Alfred himself doesn't get a mention. Pretty impressive sum of money he set aside for those awards (that feature his name!).

    Also, when I read "famous Nobelist" and "institute", my mind immediately leapt to Max Planck, but I suppose that he's a physicist. Also different in that the Max Planck Society and affiliated institutes were named as a posthumous memorial based on merit and for his service as president of the then-named Kaiser Wilhelm Society.

    1. All totally fair criticisms. I'll add them to the updates.

      I guess I did a poor job of indicating that I mean NOW. As in, we chemists were industrial leaders and "namers of things" a century ago, but today?

    2. I'll add to that:
      Fred Sanger and the Sanger Institute
      Marie Curie and the Curie Institute
      Ernest Lawrence and Lawrence Berkeley Lab (and Livermore)

    3. Jimmy Iovine? Iovino?