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IEP Award Finalists Spotlight: University of Alabama at Birmingham and Iowa State University

As part of its ongoing effort to help member institutions magnify their economic impact, APLU recently announced finalists for its 2023 Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Awards. The awards honor institutions performing exemplary work to advance the economic wellbeing of their states, regions, and the nation in the areas of talent, place, innovation and connections. In this post, APLU spotlights University of Alabama at Birmingham and Iowa State University. The IEP Award winners will be announced at the 2023 APLU Annual Meeting, November 12-14, in Seattle, WA.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has focused on cultivating an innovation ecosystem throughout Birmingham. The university has supported the creation of startups, with a particular focus on biotechnology, through a multipronged approach to supporting innovation in life sciences. UAB launched the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HIIE) in 2014 to oversee the commercialization of research, foster the creation of startups, and spur economic development.

The university’s Entrepreneurial Development Committee, which is comprised of senior university officials, meets regularly to help guide new ventures through potential issues and advance in the startup pipeline. In the past decade, the HIIE has launched more than 30 startups and currently has more than 15 at varying stages in the university start-up formation process.

Using revenue generated from HIEE, the university launched the Blazer Bridge Fund to support proof-of-concept technologies with commercial potential. The university is also partnering with a local nonprofit to advance workforce development in the biotechnology sector.

Iowa State University (Iowa State) has taken a multifaceted approach to facilitating economic development in Iowa. Iowa State’s BioCentury Research Farm convenes students and researchers to build and test new machines that advance global agriculture through advancements in areas such as machine learning, data analysis, and artificial intelligence.

Through the university’s Digital Ag Innovation Lab, students and researchers work with corporate partners to address real-world challenges facing their businesses while students gain critical work experience. The Digital Ag Innovation Lab has led to more than 70 patents and technology transfers and over 30 products sold globally.

To help further cultivate the entrepreneurial culture across the region, Iowa State created the Venture Mentoring Service (VMS) early last year to provide a team-based mentorship model, matching startup founders with a diverse group of mentors who serve as an early-stage advisory board. VMS provides talent development opportunities for startup founders, many of whom are first-time business owners.

The Debbie and Jerry Ivy College of Business Sales Forum is a partnership between academia and industry that prepares students for a career in professional sales. It consists of investor companies who support and participate in the program. The forum has had tremendous success in both recruitment of sales talent for partner companies and student demand.

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