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APLU Names Winners of 2021 Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Awards

November 16, 2021

Washington, DC – The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today named four winners of its ninth annual Innovation & Economic Prosperity (IEP) University Awards and two new IEP University designees. The awards recognize innovative projects or programs in economic engagement.

APLU’s IEP Universities designation program helps higher education institutions codify, elevate, and advance their enterprise supporting economic and community development while providing national recognition to institutions committed to university economic development. To earn the designation, institutions complete a rigorous self-study and stakeholder engagement process. They also identify their economic development strengths and areas of growth and improvement. APLU today named North Carolina A&T State University and the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center IEP University Designees. North Carolina A&T State is the first Historically Black College and University to receive the designation. Over 70 institutions have been named IEP Universities designees since the program was launched in 2012.

This year’s IEP University Award winners are:

  • University of Cincinnati won the IEP Talent award, recognizing exemplary initiatives in education and workforce development;
  • University of Colorado Boulder won the IEP Innovation award, recognizing exemplary initiatives spurring innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology-based economic development;
  • Iowa State University won the IEP Place award, for exemplary initiatives resulting in social, cultural, or community development;
  • Ohio University won the IEP Economic Engagement Connections award, the top-prize in the awards competition, recognizing overall excellence and excellence across all three award categories.

“APLU congratulates this year’s IEP Award winners for their dedication to economic development through their commitment to cultivating talent, innovation, and place-based development in their communities,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “The excellence in economic development each winner has displayed illustrates how public universities can rise to meet the needs of their communities and make significant intellectual and economic contributions to the promote wellbeing of our nation.”

To be eligible for an IEP award, an institution must first earn the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University (IEP) designation from APLU, which recognizes institutional commitment to regional economic development.

IEP designees conduct a rigorous self-study of their economic engagement activities that includes input from external stakeholders. As part of the self-study, each institution identifies areas for growth and improvement within its economic engagement enterprise and developed an improvement plan. This work demonstrates a commitment to continuous learning and improvement in this kind of engagement vital to universities and their regional partners.

As defined by APLU’s Economic Engagement Framework – a series of tools and publications that helps institutions better know, measure, and communicate their work in economic engagement – universities collaborate with their public and private sector partners in their states and regions to promote economic growth, competitiveness, and opportunity through a variety of efforts across the aforementioned categories.

More information on the 2021 Innovation and Economic Prosperity University Awardees:

University of Cincinnati
Seeking to meet talent needs and drive economic growth for the region, the University of Cincinnati boldly accelerated the development and attraction of talent for industry with the opening of its 1819 Innovation Hub in 2017. Noting the swift success of 1819, Governor Mike DeWine unveiled the Cincinnati Innovation District (CID) in March 2020. Powered by the University of Cincinnati, the CID envelops myriad innovation assets and access to some of the world’s leading academic and research centers, organizations and talent pools. The district’s mission is to become a globally recognized talent hub and lead a transformational movement. The combination of industry engagement, unique experiential platforms and accessible research expertise — working at the pace of change — will become a model nationwide.

University of Colorado Boulder
The University of Colorado Boulder takes a multipronged approach to regional economic development, including a major effort to develop a place-based strategy of innovation and entrepreneurship development. The university’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship initiative offers hands-on experiences for students, faculty, staff, and community and industry partners. Experiences include academic courses and co-curricular workshops, mentorship opportunities, a campus business venture competition called the New Venture Challenge, as well as a summer startup venture accelerator program, job fairs that connect students with startups, and physical maker spaces. The New Venture Challenge is the largest and longest-running venture program of its kind, connecting the campus with the Boulder community to develop and fund promising entrepreneurial ideas. Since 2009, over 700 teams have participated in NVC. Student and faculty ventures competing in NVC have gone on to raise capital, be acquired by corporate partners, and reach sustainable revenue and substantial local employment. The university’s research commercialization effort, Venture Partners, also works to help translate research breakthroughs to commercial successes. Last year, the commercialization division helped support 12 new technology startups and nearly 60 license and options agreements. Venture Partners-supported businesses employ approximately 11,500 workers and have a nearly $2 billion economic impact annually.

Iowa State University
Iowa State University takes a comprehensive and innovative approach to commercializing research insights and supporting businesses across the state. The university hosts America’s Small Business Development Centers Iowa (SBDC), providing no-cost, customized business consulting across the state’s 99 counties to help entrepreneurs and small business owners address their greatest challenges. SBDC provides workshops teaching practical skills and techniques, market research, and access to subject-matter experts. SBDC has served as an economic development hub for small businesses and has established partnerships to reach all areas of the state. These connections allow for increased access to resources for all Iowa residents interested in starting or growing a business and include Spanish-speaking advisors to support the Hispanic community. Efforts include bringing digital resources and marketing to rural and underserved markets, as well as providing financial literacy training for minority business owners and supporting their efforts to raise capital. The university’s extension arm has created the Rural Housing Readiness Assessment (RHRA), which helps participating communities learn where to find information they need, how to interpret the data, and how to incorporate it into decisions for their community.

Ohio University
Ohio University has made community and economic engagement efforts to serve its region. The university is working to advance research and knowledge discovery that promotes vibrant communities across the state. Ohio University is: increasing its applied research to address challenges facing its communities; expanding research to support existing strengths; expanding partnerships with corporations; and supporting undergraduate research focused on enhancing community success. Ohio University’s incubator for technology startup companies, the Innovation Center, supported 335 jobs that generated an estimated $22 million in employee compensation in Athens County in 2019. Over the last six years, the business incubator’s job creation numbers have more than doubled, and employee compensation generated from its client companies has nearly tripled. Since 1996, the university’s George Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service has worked with communities to foster local economic development, reaching more than 60 Ohio counties, including all 32 in Appalachia.

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