The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) awarded the University of Utah the Innovation and Economic Prosperity designation, which recognizes universities that promote growth, innovation and economic development in their regions.
“This is tremendous recognition of the important role the University of Utah plays as an economic engine for our state,” said Ruth V. Watkins, president of the University of Utah. “We are committed to educating the workforce of the future, to building strong industry partnerships and to fostering the new ideas and innovations of students and faculty that solve grand societal challenges. This designation will enhance our efforts in these areas.”
Innovation and Economic Prosperity designees work 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, according to APLU. The APLU is a prestigious research, policy and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Watkins tasked Keith Marmer, chief innovation and economic engagement officer for the university, to lead the yearlong self-evaluation and application process required by the APLU. Marmer assembled an 11-person team to examine strengths and opportunities of the U’s economic and community engagement enterprise, and to research the U’s impact in the region.
The team worked with the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute to survey the President’s Leadership Council, hundreds of faculty members across the U campus and the University Alumni Association board and conducted focus groups with leaders in industry, government and economic development agencies.
Feedback was virtually unanimous in advocating for a centralized office empowered by U leadership to expand economic enterprise and innovation. The result was the creation of the Partners for Innovation, Ventures, Outreach and Technology (PIVOT) Center that is tasked with leading a centralized and integrated strategy for technology commercialization, corporate engagement and economic development.
Academic programs, including more than 100 undergraduate and 90 graduate programs, contribute substantially toward the human capital and workforce development needs of the region. The U’s prominence as a research institution attracts talent to Utah from around the world to engage in top-tier research, where awards reached $603 million in FY2020. University researchers, including one Nobel laureate, have conducted ground-breaking research that led to the first artificial heart, the discovery of over 30 disease-causing genes and pioneering development of the internet.
“Our research enterprise has reached new heights with a historic milestone of $600M in research awards in FY20,” says Andy Weyrich, vice president for research. “The university’s research accomplishments are truly a testament to our remarkable faculty, students, and staff who continue to drive innovation and economic growth at the U.”
The U is one of only three universities that earned the APLU designation this year.
“Many communities are reeling from the economic devastation wrought by the global pandemic,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “As leaders in economic development, this year’s designees and award winners are well-positioned to play an important role in our economic recovery and help drive longer term economic growth and prosperity.”