Research and Impact

APLU names Ohio University 2021 Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Economic Engagement Connections award winner

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today named Ohio University a 2021 Innovation & Economic Prosperity (IEP) Economic Engagement Connections award winner, the top prize in its annual awards competition. The awards recognize innovative projects or programs in economic engagement.

APLU’s IEP Universities designation program helps higher education institutions codify, elevate, and advance their enterprise supporting economic and community development while providing national recognition to institutions committed to university economic development. To earn the designation, institutions complete a rigorous self-study and stakeholder engagement process. They also identify their economic development strengths and areas of growth and improvement.

“An important priority in our mission at Ohio University is to serve the communities in our region, which makes this award from the APLU even more meaningful,” Ohio University President Hugh Sherman said. “We are proud that our applied research, technology commercialization, small business incubation and focus on entrepreneurship have become a powerful force in stimulating the economy in southeastern Ohio, and we are dedicated to finding new ways to expand economic development and support the vibrant communities we serve.”

Ohio University won the IEP Economic Engagement Connections award, the top prize in the awards competition, recognizing overall excellence and excellence across all three award categories. Ohio University had been a finalist for the IEP Innovation Award.

This year’s additional IEP University Award winners are:

  • University of Cincinnati won the IEP Talent award, recognizing exemplary initiatives in education and workforce development;
  • University of Colorado Boulder won the IEP Innovation award, recognizing exemplary initiatives spurring innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology-based economic development;
  • Iowa State University won the IEP Place award, for exemplary initiatives resulting in social, cultural, or community development.

“APLU congratulates this year’s IEP Award winners for their dedication to economic development through their commitment to cultivating talent, innovation, and place-based development in their communities,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “The excellence in economic development each winner has displayed illustrates how public universities can rise to meet the needs of their communities and make significant intellectual and economic contributions to promote the wellbeing of our nation.”

To be eligible for an IEP award, an institution must first earn the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University (IEP) designation from APLU, which recognizes institutional commitment to regional economic development.

“This award is a tremendous honor for Ohio University and its programs, including the Innovation Center and the Voinovich School, that support existing and startup companies for the benefit of southeastern Ohio and beyond,” Vice President for Research and Creative Activity Joseph Shields said. “We remain committed to improving the lives of people in the region through innovation and helping creative students, faculty, and community members realize their potential as entrepreneurs.”

Ohio University’s mission includes advancing research and creative activity and putting knowledge to work through innovation for the benefit of communities across the state. The institution engages with regional partners to advance economic development that improves the lives and futures of the people of southeastern Ohio.

Ohio University’s incubator for technology startup companies, the Innovation Center, supported 335 jobs that generated an estimated $22 million in employee compensation in Athens County in 2019. Over the last six years, the business incubator’s job creation numbers have more than doubled, and employee compensation generated from its client companies has nearly tripled.

Ohio University’s George Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service has worked with communities to foster local economic development, reaching more than 65 Ohio counties, including all 32 in Appalachia. The School works with public- and private-sector partners to promote the success of established and startup companies and build capacity for regional economic development.

These include TechGROWTH Ohio, a partnership with the state’s Third Frontier program, which has contributed to $70 million in technology investment in Southeast Ohio. TechGROWTH’s and the Ohio Innovation Fund’s efforts helped lead to the merger of Ohio University-supported Stirling Ultracold with BioLife Solutions. OHIO’s efforts have led to $3.5 billion in support of economic activity over the last five years, including the Ohio Procurement Technical Assistance Program with the Ohio Department of Development. The School’s Appalachian New Economy Partnership, in collaboration with the College of Business and the Ohio Department of Higher Education, has served as a driving force for economic and community development innovation throughout the region. The School is an USEDA University Center and works on major grant initiatives to promote the economic development of the region with the Governor's Office of Appalachia and the regional Local Development Districts and many other state and regional partners.

“APLU’s recognition through this award of Ohio University’s accomplishments in advancing innovation and economic prosperity is gratifying and motivates us all to redouble our efforts in leveraging the institution’s expertise to benefit the people of our state and region,” said Mark Weinberg, dean of the Voinovich School. “The work that we have done in collaboration with our tremendous partners around the region and state have made a significant, positive impact on the community and we appreciate their continued collaboration and support.”

IEP designees conduct a rigorous self-study of their economic engagement activities that includes input from external stakeholders. As part of the self-study, each institution identified areas for growth and improvement within its economic engagement enterprise and developed an improvement plan. This work demonstrates a commitment to continuous learning and improvement in this kind of engagement vital to universities and their regional partners.

As defined by APLU’s Economic Engagement Framework – a series of tools and publications that helps institutions better know, measure, and communicate their work in economic engagement – universities collaborate with their public and private sector partners in their states and regions to promote economic growth, competitiveness, and opportunity through a variety of efforts across the aforementioned categories.

November 16, 2021
Staff reports