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APLU Announces Four Winners of Inaugural Economic Prosperity University Awards

November 12, 2013

Honors Recognize Northern Illinois University, The State University of New York, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Michigan for their Economic Engagement Efforts

November 12, 2013—Recognizing public universities that have demonstrated exemplary work in economic engagement, APLU today announced the four winners of its inaugural Economic Prosperity University Awards (IEPA).  The winners—Northern Illinois University, The State University of New York, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Michigan—were drawn from a pool of 16 institutions that APLU recently designated as Innovation & Economic Prosperity Universities.  The awards, which were given during APLU’s 126th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, are in the categories of innovation, place, and overall.

“These four institutions demonstrate the critical role that public universities play in taking cutting edge research and translating it into new opportunities for economic growth with businesses in their state,” APLU President Peter McPherson said. “All of the schools that participated in this award process illustrated a core responsibility of public universities – giving back to their communities and state in ways that strengthen the economy and improve the quality of life for residents of that state.  APLU will continue to serve as a resource for public universities to expand their economic engagement activities to help advance their local economy.”

Each of the winning universities previously submitted an application to APLU to be designated as an Innovation & Economic Prosperity University. The case studies that each institution developed as part of that application process, which will soon be publicly posted online at http://universityimpact.wordpress.com, were especially central to universities’ demonstration of their best practices and were critical in determining award finalists.

Economic engagement efforts include universities working with public and private sector partners in their states and regions to support economic development through a variety of activities -- innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and community development.  

The “Innovation” award went to both The State University of New York and the University of Michigan for demonstrating outstanding work in technology transfer, entrepreneurship, and business development.  SUNY’s efforts include a Technology Accelerator fund to bridge the gap between basic research funds and investment in a viable start-up business; regionalization of innovation operations to generate benefits across the state while still interacting with entrepreneurs, idea champions, and funding networks on a local level; and a university-industry partnership to develop technology that opened up new possibilities for molecular tools, therapeutics, vaccines, and imaging applications.

State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said, “Winning the APLU Innovation and Economic Prosperity Award is further confirmation of the profound impact that universities - and especially university systems - can have on both economic development and quality of life by forging partnerships with business, industry, and government entities.  SUNY's leadership in APLU’s New Metrics Pilot Project allowed us to play a major role in designing and defining new ways to measure such impacts and we are grateful to have had this opportunity.”

The University of Michigan was recognized for its multi-center institute that provides research, consulting, and technical assistance in partnership with others in the region, focused on business assistance, interventions for communities in economic transition, and economic impact analysis; a Business Engagement Center that provides a single, visible point of entry and "front door" to the university for industry seeking to partner with the institution; and a Venture Center that provides a central hub for university startup ventures and access point for entrepreneurs and venture funding partners that want to start new businesses based on university research.

Stephen Forrest, vice president for research at the University of Michigan noted, “For several years it has been a top priority at the University of Michigan to strengthen the processes and relationships across campus, within the state, and beyond that allow us to help catalyze the continuing vitalization of the economy.  We are pleased to be part of APLU’s effort to encourage these engagements at universities across the nation.”

The “Place” award, which recognizes a university that is excelling in community, social, and cultural development work, went to Northern Illinois University for a variety of activities, including a commitment to expanding broadband internet access throughout the region and state, enhancing university research capacity and also helping to grow businesses and create jobs; an effort aimed at reducing fragmentation and maximizing the impact of off-campus P-20 activities by faculty, students, and staff through better coordination of these efforts; and support for growth and development of an aerospace cluster in a distressed region of the state, through workforce education, R&D partnerships, regional branding, and stimulation of entrepreneurship.

“Engagement with our communities and regions has always been the defining characteristic of America’s top public universities,” said, Northern Illinois University President Douglas D. Baker. “To be held up as one of the best in this endeavor, in the company of some of our country’s finest institutions, is a tremendous honor.”

The “Overall” category award, which recognizes an institution that is making connections between all of these university-engaged economic development areas, went to the University of Cincinnati for its strategic university/industry simulation and modeling partnership that engages students in experiential learning to directly solve product development and manufacturing process problems.  UC also has a commercialization center focused as much on non-technology intellectual property as on scientific discovery and technology development and a non-profit start-up organization focused on trans-disciplinary research and development of products and services for the baby boomer market.

Dorothy Air, University of Cincinnati Associate Vice President for Entrepreneurial Affairs and Technology Commercialization, noted, “For the University of Cincinnati, the value of the IEPA process was not about competing for an award. The self-assessment tools and the development of the growth and improvement plan are being used as part of our strategic planning process so it will have an impact well after the IEPA process is over.”

APLU’s Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness, and Economic Prosperity (CICEP) recently spearheaded an effort to have public universities conduct a self-study using its “Institutional Assessment Tools to Enhance Regional Innovation and Prosperity” (www.aplu.org/CICEPAssessmentTools) to evaluate each university’s particular engagement in regional economic development.

Applicants for the new Innovation & Economic Prosperity University designation and awards conducted this self-study and solicited input from external stakeholders. Each university applicant identified three areas of strength for itself in economic engagement, and developed case studies to reflect them.  Applicants also identified areas for growth and improvement for their university’s economic engagement enterprise, and fleshed out an improvement plan. This work demonstrated a commitment to continuous learning and improvement in this area of work vital to universities and their regional partners.

University applications were scored by a panel of reviewers representing other universities and also national partners, including the National Governors Association, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), Association of University Research Parks, University Economic Development Association, Business – Higher Education Forum, and the National Association of System Heads. Scoring was based on a range of criteria emphasizing universities’ development of their economic engagement enterprise, their planning efforts around economic engagement, strategic communications around these efforts, and participation in encouraging economic engagement among peer institutions.

Institutions interested in being considered for the APLU Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation and awards in 2014 should contact Jim Woodell, APLU’s Assistant Vice President, Innovation & Technology Policy and lead CICEP staffer.  Interested universities should begin planning for their self-study as soon as possible. More information about participating in the 2014 process is available athttp://www.aplu.org/IEPUniversities.

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization representing 219 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and related organizations.  Founded in 1887, APLU is the nation's oldest higher education association with member institutions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories. Annually, member campuses enroll more than 3.8 million undergraduates and 1.2 million graduate students, award over 1 million degrees, employ nearly 1 million faculty and staff, and conduct more than $37 billion in university-based research.

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