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Nurturing Inclusive Innovation Ecosystems through University-State-City Partnerships: Webinar Summary

By Abigail Robbins, Program Associate, Economic Development, Community Engagement, & Governmental Affairs

Innovation Webinar Graphic with panelists

On February 25, 2021, APLU, the National Governors Association, and the National League of Cities held the second of four webinars as part of the IEP Universities: Catalyzing Next Generation University-State-City Partnerships for Economic Opportunity Webinar Series. This webinar titled, Nurturing Inclusive Innovation Ecosystems through University-State-City Partnerships focused on the innovation facet of economic engagement. Kansas State University was the highlighted institution based on its initiatives and collaboration with regional and state partners to spur innovation.

Abigail Robbins, Program Associate, Economic Development, Community Engagement, & Governmental Affairs at APLU introduced the webinar. Sheila Martin, Vice President of Economic Development and Community Engagement moderated the panel. The panelists included Rebecca Robinson, Trent Armbrust, and Jason Hilgers. Each panelist discussed their experience as part of University-State-City partnerships in pursuit of expanding innovation and opportunity. Below are summaries of each panelist’s contribution.

Rebecca Robinson, Chief Corporate Engagement & Economic Development Officer at Kansas State University Innovation Partners, emphasized the importance of a culture of collaboration between institutional partnerships. In doing so, Robinson highlighted initiatives and investments Kansas State University has made, as exemplified in Kansas Based Economic Development (KBED) Partnership, to support the city and state goals. When asked for her university-state-city partnerships elevator pitch, Robinson explained that especially in smaller city environments, “we can’t afford not to work together.”

Jason Hilgers, Deputy City Manager at the City of Manhattan, Kansas, illustrated the unique town-gown relationship Manhattan has with Kansas State University. Through effective communication and collaboration towards shared interests, the partnership leverages investment in innovation assets that are valuable and in demand by private industry and the government. Hilgers emphasized the importance of this relationship within the context of COVID-19, depicting the shift to assist local companies through turbulent economic conditions using COVID relief and economic development funds.

Trent Armbrust, Director of Strategy for Bioscience & Technology at the Kansas Department of Commerce discussed a framework for growth and the importance of higher ed institutions in delivering on the state’s economic development vision. Armbrust gave the example of the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility as a success story of collaboration. Armbrust explained that the efforts to attract federal and state facilities to Manhattan require a strong university-state-local partnership.

While each panelist brought unique perspectives, the need for continuation and expansion of university-state-city-led partnerships is crucial to advancing innovation. For more insight from the panelists, view the recording of the session here.

Inspired by what you’ve read here? Learn more about how to get engaged at www.APLU.org/SeekIEP and read more articles like this at www.aplu.org/iepblog. RSVP to the next two APLU-NGA-NLC Webinars here.

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