From Association of Public and Land Grant Universities:

Seeking to recognize public universities that have demonstrated exemplary work in economic engagement, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today announced six finalists for its inaugural Economic Prosperity University Awards (IEPA).  The finalists, which were drawn from a pool of 16 institutions that APLU recently designated as Innovation & Economic Prosperity Universities, are competing for four different awards that recognize different components of economic engagement.  The finalists are: Northern Illinois University, The State University of New York, the University of Central Florida, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Memphis, and the University of Michigan.

“Public universities have a responsibility to take their wide array of expertise and put it to work in their region by helping to grow businesses and strengthen the economy,” APLU President Peter McPherson said. “The institutions that are finalists for APLU’s inaugural Economic Prosperity University Awards have all demonstrated a clear commitment to economic engagement and have followed through by delivering results.  APLU will continue to serve as a resource for public universities to expand their economic engagement activities and help advance their  regional economies.”

The application that universities submitted to be designated as an Innovation & Economic Prosperity University served as the basis for selecting award finalists. The case studies that each institution developed, which will soon be publicly posted online, were especially central to universities’ demonstration of their best practices and were critical in determining award finalists.

Economic engagement efforts include universities working with public and private sector partners in their states and regions to support economic development through a variety of activities—innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and community development.  The awards will recognize specific emphases in these areas. The “Talent” award will honor an institution with exemplary initiatives in education and workforce development; the “Innovation” award will honor an institution demonstrating outstanding work in technology transfer, entrepreneurship, and business development; the “Place” award will recognize a university that is excelling in community, social, and cultural development work; and an “Overall” category will recognize an institution that is making connections between all of these university-engaged economic development areas.

“Engagement with our communities and regions has always been the defining characteristic of America’s top public universities,” said, Northern Illinois University President Douglas D. Baker. “To be held up as one of the best in this endeavor, in the company of some of our country’s finest institutions, is a tremendous honor.”

State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said, “Being named a finalist for the APLU Innovation and Economic Prosperity Award is further confirmation of the profound impact that universities – and especially university systems—can have on both economic development and quality of life by forging partnerships with business, industry, and government entities.  SUNY’s leadership in APLU’s New Metrics Pilot Project allowed us to play a major role in designing and defining new ways to measure such impacts and we are grateful to have had this opportunity.”

University of Central Florida Vice President for Research & Commercialization MJ Soileau added, “The APLU Innovation and Economic Prosperity Award process has given us the opportunity not just to take stock of our strengths but to identify key areas where we can improve our role as an economic driver for the region.  Recognition of UCF’s innovation strengths by the APLU could not have come at a better time.  As we celebrate our 50th anniversary this year, we are delighted to see our strategy for serving the Central Florida city-state selected by some of the nation’s most respected university leaders as a finalist for this distinguished award.”

Dorothy Air, University of Cincinnati Associate Vice President for Entrepreneurial Affairs and Technology Commercialization, noted, “For the University of Cincinnati, the value of the IEPA process was not about competing for an award. The self-assessment tools and the development of the growth and improvement plan are being used as part of our strategic planning process so it will have an impact well after the IEPA process is over.”

University of Memphis Provost Dr. David Rudd said, “The link between public universities and the economic well-being of their regional and state economies is undeniable. The link between the city of Memphis and the University of Memphis is multifaceted and indispensable. These awards recognize that critical link, along with the creativity and hard work of countless faculty, staff, students and city employees.”

Stephen Forrest, vice president for research at the University of Michigan noted, “For several years it has been a top priority at the University of Michigan to strengthen the processes and relationships across campus, within the state, and beyond that allow us to help catalyze the continuing vitalization of the economy.  We are pleased to be part of APLU’s effort to encourage these engagements at universities across the nation.”

In addition to the six award finalists announced today, the 10 other institutions that comprise the inaugural class of Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities are: Boise State University; California State University, Fresno; The Ohio State University; University of Georgia; University of Idaho; University of Minnesota; University of Missouri; University of Oklahoma; University of Toledo; and Washington State University.

APLU’s Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness, and Economic Prosperity (CICEP) recently spearheaded an effort to have public universities conduct a self-study using its “Institutional Assessment Tools to Enhance Regional Innovation and Prosperity” ( to evaluate each university’s particular engagement in regional economic development.

Applicants for the new Innovation & Economic Prosperity University designation and awards conducted this self-study and solicited input from external stakeholders. Each university applicant identified three areas of strength for itself 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 National Governors Association, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), Association of University Research Parks, University Economic Development Association, Business – Higher Education Forum, and the National Association of System Heads. 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.

Institutions interested in being considered for the APLU Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation and awards in 2014, should contact Jim Woodell, APLU’s Assistant Vice President, Innovation & Technology Policy and lead CICEP staffer. Interested universities should begin planning for their self-study as soon as possible.

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization representing 219 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and related organizations.  Founded in 1887, APLU is the nation’s oldest higher education association with member institutions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories. Annually, member campuses enroll more than 3.8 million undergraduates and 1.2 million graduate students, award over 1 million degrees, employ nearly 1 million faculty and staff, and conduct more than $37 billion in university-based research