The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities on June 24 designated the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University, recognizing its strong commitment to economic engagement.
The designation acknowledges universities that work to advance the economic well-being of their states and regions through research, education and engagement that foster innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and community development. Nebraska is one of 18 universities named to this year’s group.
Chancellor Harvey Perlman said the APLU designation is significant.
“It underscores the university’s commitment to be an economic driver for Nebraska and our region through our research, education and engagement,” Perlman said. “It affirms ongoing efforts to expand our private-sector partnerships, to prepare our students for a highly skilled workforce and to work with communities and entrepreneurs statewide.”
The university’s application highlighted its expanding research partnerships with private businesses, the research and learning opportunities for students, and statewide engagement through Nebraska Extension, said Ryan Anderson, director of Industry Relations.
Commercializing research results through industry partnerships, licensing agreements and start-up companies is among Nebraska’s ongoing goals, Anderson said. For example, The university’s expertise in wheat and soybean breeding led to agreements between Bayer CropScience and NUtech Ventures, the university’s commercialization arm, aimed at developing new soybean and wheat varieties. Thanks partly to this ongoing partnership, Bayer CropScience opened a $17 million wheat and soybean research facility in Seward County in May, the company’s first wheat breeding station in the Americas.
Recent investments to enhance research infrastructure campuswide and to develop Nebraska Innovation Campus have strengthened the university’s capacity for both research and private-sector partnerships. For example, NIC’s new Greenhouse Innovation Center contains one of the world’s few publicly available LemnaTec Scanalyzers, a sophisticated digital imaging system for plant research that is attracting private-sector interest.
Creating learning environments that prepare students for today’s jobs is also vital to the state’s economic success, Anderson said.
“The university is the skilled workforce factory for our state, and students are our No. 1 product,” he said.
For example, the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, a residential undergraduate honors program, combines business leadership and software engineering. Graduates are in demand at major companies and have founded several software companies such as Hudl. The Lincoln-based developer of sports video editing and analysis software has created about 270 jobs since 2006, most in Nebraska, and plans to add 300 more.
UNL also works with public and private organizations and agencies statewide to coordinate economic development efforts. Anderson pointed out that Nebraska Extension connects the university to communities, businesses and entrepreneurs in Nebraska’s 93 counties, providing research-based information on a wide range of topics related to the state’s economic prosperity.
The APLU application process included a comprehensive self-study of the university’s economic development efforts, including feedback from external stakeholders. Through this exercise, Nebraska identified institutional strengths and developed a plan for improving its economic engagement efforts.
“Public universities serve as economic engines for their local communities and states by conducting cutting-edge research to reach new breakthroughs and developing the talent to help existing businesses grow stronger and enabling new ones to develop and thrive,” APLU President Peter McPherson said. “The 18 institutions in the 2015 class of Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities serve as wonderful models of how public research universities extend beyond their campuses to engage their communities in economic development that create jobs and improve lives.”
APLU is a research, policy and advocacy organization representing 238 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems and affiliated organizations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.