Linder outlines universities' role in economic development

· 2 min read

Linder outlines universities’ role in economic development

NU Interim President James Linder

What do fuzzy photos of typewriters tell us?

That change is inevitable — and that to thrive in an era of extraordinary technological innovation, an entrepreneurial mindset is required.

That was a key theme of interim University of Nebraska President James Linder’s presentation at the 2014 annual meeting of the Midwestern Legislative Conference, which concluded this week in Omaha. The meeting, organized by the Council of State Governments, attracted legislators from 11 Midwestern states and featured policy sessions on a variety of topics, including agriculture and natural resources, economic competitiveness, education, health and human services and others.

Linder co-led a panel discussion on the expanding role that universities play in fostering regional economic development.

The conference’s Economic Development Committee is also co-chaired by Sen. Heath Mello.

The panel explored the best practices on university efforts related to technological innovation, industry and community engagement and the commercialization of faculty inventions.

“As I hope I demonstrated, the University of Nebraska is doing lots of things right — and we are in a position to do even more to advance Nebraska’s economic competitiveness,” Linder said. “We will need to continue to think creatively, not be afraid to take risks and capitalize on opportunities when they arise.”

In his remarks, Linder noted that universities are key drivers of economic growth. They provide, among other assets:

  • Well-educated students who go on to work at leading companies or start their own businesses

  • Relevant research in areas important to their states and the world

  • New products, practices and businesses spun off from the research

  • Engagement and outreach services that support farmers and ranchers, teachers and business leaders

  • Healthcare services

Linder said universities and states could implement a number of programs that can support economic development. For example, entrepreneurs-in-residence, like those on the NU campuses, can match faculty with experts who can help them take their research breakthroughs from the lab to the marketplace.

There could also be internship programs, like Nebraska’s successful Intern Nebraska, to help keep young talent in the state, and legislatures could develop grant programs, tax policies and regulatory processes that support business growth.

Linder also highlighted NU’s Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program, established at the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2010. The Engler program provides coursework, training, mentorship and other support for UNL students who want to start their own business.

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