Business & Economy Society & Culture

UGA receives designation as Innovation and Economic Prosperity University

Athens, Ga. – The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities has designated the University of Georgia an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University. UGA is one of only 16 universities in the nation to receive the designation.

The new APLU designation acknowledges universities working with public and private sector partners in their states and regions to support economic development through a variety of activities, including innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and community development.

Economic development has become one of the cornerstones of UGA’s mission under the direction of President Jere W. Morehead, who serves on APLU’s Committee of Research Intensive Public Universities. “As a land-grant institution, UGA is charged with serving the citizens of Georgia in ways that improve their lives,” Morehead said. “Economic opportunity, job creation and the support of existing businesses and industries in this state create opportunities for Georgians, and UGA can and should aid in those efforts.”

Morehead said the APLU designation is a reflection of the hard work and effort the university is undertaking to support economic development statewide.

To earn the designation, UGA conducted an internal and external assessment of its regional economic development efforts and developed a comprehensive improvement plan. The nearly yearlong IEP application process was directed by Margaret Wagner Dahl, associate vice president for economic development in the Office of the Vice President for Research.

“The IEP process for the University of Georgia has been an outstanding experience which enabled us to harness UGA resources that can be devoted to economic development for the state as well as very specific feedback on how to engage these resources more effectively,” Dahl said. “Using the APLU assessment tool, conducting the UGA stakeholders’ workshop last March and coordinating the improvement plan has given us the ability to understand where we have been, where we want to go and what we must do in order to work with Georgians to substantively improve our citizens’ economic position.”

Among the initiatives undertaken since Morehead assumed the UGA presidency in July is an economic development office in Atlanta to establish a closer link with Atlanta’s business sector, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, local chambers of commerce, universities and to serve as a hub for economic development around the state. Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach, and David Lee, vice president for research, co-direct the university’s economic development efforts.

“UGA economic development programs play a vital role in supporting job creation in Georgia, which is an elemental part of UGA’s mission as a land-grant institution,” Frum said.

The 16 institutions that make up the inaugural class of Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities are Boise State University; California State University, Fresno; Northern Illinois University; The Ohio State University; The State University of New York; University of Central Florida; University of Cincinnati; University of Georgia; University of Idaho; University of Memphis; University of Michigan; University of Minnesota; University of Missouri; University of Oklahoma; University of Toledo; and Washington State University.

“The APLU Innovation and Economic Prosperity designation and awards program has enabled universities to shine a spotlight on the work they’re doing, both internally on their campuses and externally with their communities to promote economic engagement-and to demonstrate more clearly with government and the private sector the public benefit of universities,” said Douglas Banks, associate vice president for economic development at UMass, and IEP Universities Designation and Awards Program co-chair.

“Unlike a more traditional competition, this process led the universities to work together and learn from one another-sharing tools, tips and techniques for promoting strengths and tackling areas of improvement,” he said. “A learning community was created that has led to a stronger grasp of why university economic engagement matters.”

Working with member universities, APLU’s Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness, and Economic Prosperity developed a set of “Institutional Assessment Tools to Enhance Regional Innovation and Prosperity” that help university economic engagement leaders conduct an institutional self-study and evaluate university efforts in regional economic development.

Applicants for the new Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation conducted this self-study and solicited input from external stakeholders. Each university applicant identified three areas of strength in economic engagement, and developed case studies to reflect them. Applicants also identified areas for growth and improvement for their university’s economic engagement enterprise and fleshed out an improvement plan. This work demonstrated a commitment to continuous learning and improvement in this area of work vital to universities and their regional partners.

University applications were scored by a panel of reviewers representing other universities and also national partners, including the Association of University Research Parks, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Business-Higher Education Forum, National Association of System Heads, National Governors Association and University Economic Development Association. 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.