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APLU Names Six Public Research Institutions as Finalists for 2015 Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Awards

October 14, 2015

Washington, DC – The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today named six public research institutions as finalists for its third annual Innovation & Economic Prosperity (IEP) University Awards. The winners will be announced on November 17 at the association’s annual meeting in Indianapolis. The finalists — Auburn University, Clemson University, Ohio University, University of Illinois, University of Maryland, and University of Minnesota — are competing for four different awards that recognize different components of economic engagement. The award categories include talent, innovation, place, and connections.

“Public research universities have a core responsibility to take their wide array of expertise and put it to work in their region by helping to grow businesses, strengthen the economy, and advance society,” APLU President Peter McPherson said. “The six institutions that are finalists for the 2015 APLU Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Awards have all demonstrated a clear commitment to economic engagement and have followed through by delivering results.  APLU applauds them and looks forward to sharing their good work with other institutions as a resource for all public research universities to expand their economic engagement activities and help grow their regional economies.”

The APLU IEP Universities designation identifies institutions working to advance the economic well-being of their states, regions, and the nation through a variety of efforts. Each year at the APLU annual meeting, four of the institutions that were designated as IEP Universities also receive awards recognizing exemplary work in this arena.

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. 

APLU’s Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness, and Economic Prosperity (CICEP), which brings together public university leaders from around the country who are focused on economic engagement issues, is continuing to lead efforts to help public research universities plan, assess, and communicate their work in local and regional economic development using the CICEP “Economic Engagement Framework.”  The framework includes tools for university self-assessment, metrics determination, and economic impact analysis.  

The IEP University Awards recognize specific emphases in these areas. The “Talent” award (finalists: Clemson University and University of Maryland) honors an institution with exemplary initiatives in education and workforce development; the “Innovation” award (finalists: University of Illinois System and University of Minnesota) honors an institution demonstrating outstanding work in technology transfer, entrepreneurship, and business development; the “Place” award (finalists: Auburn University and Ohio University) recognizes a university that is excelling in community, social, and cultural development work; and the “Connections” category (all six finalists are eligible for this award) recognizes the institution that is doing the most to build connections between categories of economic engagement — innovation and entrepreneurship, talent development, and social, community, and cultural development.

“APLU’s Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness, and Economic Prosperity works closely with universities to further develop and advance their economic engagement activities to help ensure they have the deepest impact,” said Jim Woodell, APLU Assistant Vice President for Innovation and Technology Policy.  “That’s why we developed the CICEP Framework, which provides tools for universities to identify both institutional accomplishments in innovation and economic development, and also areas for growth and improvement.  Using one or more of the tools as part of their self-study, universities assess where they are and where they and their regions are headed.”

This year’s IEP Award finalists have undertaken a variety of economic engagement efforts, some of which are highlighted below.

  • Clemson University has created and expanded practical education to supplement classroom learning.  Last year alone, the University Professional Internship and Co-op Program helped nearly 850 students gain internship experience.
  • The University of Maryland has partnered with Northrop Grumman to create the Advanced Cybersecurity Experiences for Students, cementing its place at the vanguard of one of the most strategically important fields of the 21st century.
  • The University of Illinois System has spurred innovation on several of its campuses.  The system’s two proof-of-concept programs, the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund and the Illinois Proof-of Concept, help translate promising discoveries made in the laboratory into the marketplace.
  • The University of Minnesota System’s Minnesota’s Discovery, Research, and InnoVation Economy (MnDRIVE) has helped catalyze the launch of a record 16 startups in 2015, bringing its total to 86 since 2006.
  • Auburn University Rural Studio, established in 1993, is aimed at providing hands-on experience in architectural education.
  • Ohio University’s Innovation Center, created in 1983, has helped establish nearly 100 companies, which have generated over 1,000 jobs.

All IEP University designees, including the award finalists, conducted an institutional self-study and solicited input from external stakeholders. Each university designee identified three areas of institutional strength in economic engagement, and described programs in these areas.  Designees also identified areas for growth and improvement for their university’s economic engagement enterprise, and developed an improvement plan. This work demonstrated a commitment to continuous learning and improvement in this kind of engagement vital to universities and their regional partners.

Applications for the designation were scored by a panel of independent reviewers representing other universities and also national partners. 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 next year’s APLU Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation and awards process, should contact Jim Woodell, APLU’s Assistant Vice President, Innovation & Technology Policy and lead CICEP staffer. 

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