As regular Crimson Catalyst readers will know, IU was well-represented at the recent University Economic Development Association Annual Summit in Roanoke, Va. Having attended nearly all the Awards of Excellence finalist presentations, I thought I might pass along a few takeaways from those – plus some other key themes of the summit.
One consistent theme of the winning initiatives was the deep collaborations that universities built with external stakeholders – often over considerable amounts of time.
Kansas State University’s Silo-Busting Collaboration Series initiative, which won the Innovation award category, consisted of 23 events and included over 825 participants. They came together to discuss opportunities that would enhance the university’s competitiveness for major awards and firm relocations.
Similarly, Shoals Shift, a University of North Alabama initiative that won the Innovation + Talent category, also brought many partners together across sectors. To illustrate the deep ties they developed, the presenters mentioned that the head of the local chamber of commerce — who had been a key advocate of the project for the business community — became a university employee focused on this initiative.
In his keynote address, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine stressed the need for sustained collaboration and engagement with regional partners, while urging leaders to constantly ask: “Who isn’t at the table that should be?”
In Erskine’s view, future success in regional economic development will be defined by the ability of organizations to form strong, integrated partnerships. By aligning and pursuing shared interests with external partners, both universities and external partners enhance their competitiveness and accrue longer-term benefits from a stronger regional economy.
These partnerships can take many forms, such as aligning educational programming with regional workforce needs, supporting entrepreneurial activity, jointly building regional clusters, and innovating in teaching and learning.
Erskine also noted how universities themselves increasingly provide leadership on major regional economic development projects.
The summit’s host institution, Virginia Tech University, showcased such a project – a partnership with regional health care provider Carilion Clinic to develop a growing medical school and medical research institute in Roanoke. Additional partners, including the City of Roanoke and the State of Virginia, also have been engaged – and are expanding this vision to include an Innovation District aimed at growing startups and attracting established companies working on health technologies.
For those who follow IU economic development efforts, the Virginia Tech initiative should sound a bit familiar. As we speak, planning continues on the new IU Health Hospital and adjacent Academic Health Complex on the current site of the IU Bloomington golf course driving range. And recent developments — such as the expansion of Tsuchiya Co. Ltd.’s North American headquarters in downtown Bloomington’s Trades District — signifies further development of a 10th Street Innovation Corridor that extends from the Trades District to state Highway 45/46 bypass near the new hospital/academic health center.
Moreover, both examples bring together three major components of university economic engagement as defined by UEDA – talent, innovation and place. And in both cases, students, faculty and researchers will work in close proximity to health care practitioners, with opportunities for co-location with related enterprises in a nearby technology corridor.