USF nationally recognized for innovation, economic prosperity

The University of South Florida has earned a new distinction on the national level.

In recognition of the university’s dedication to encouraging innovation and promoting local economic development, USF has been named an Innovation & Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU).

“USF has grown into an economic driver for Tampa Bay and the state of Florida,” USF President Judy Genshaft says in a news release. “Economic engagement with our community is essential to our success as a university, and we are honored to receive this designation from the APLU.”

USF, which serves nearly 48,000 students, is one of only 18 universities nationwide to receive the honor in 2015, and the only in the state of Florida (the University of Central Florida was recognized in 2013). Only 48 universities nationwide have held the designation.

Recognition as an Innovation & Economic Prosperity University is earned through demonstration of a commitment to learning, engaging communities and regional partners, and determining areas for growth and improvement within the university’s current economic engagement plans.

The designation is meant to highlight universities that have developed partnerships in the public and private sectors of their respective states to support economic development. This might mean fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, mining talent, and community development or workforce training. In the case of USF, examples include cutting edge innovation already happening at USF Connect and USF Research Park or still forming in partnerships like the Tampa Innovation Alliance.

To receive the distinction, universities worked with community partners across the city and state, conducted internal reviews and consulted external stakeholders before submitting an application to be reviewed by a panel from organizations such as the Association of University Research Parks, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Kauffman Foundation.

Paul R. Sanberg, USF Senior VP for research, innovation and economic development, credits a multidisciplinary 50-member university committee, community partners and focus groups, annual economic prosperity “summits,” and “the vision and support of USF president Judy Genshaft” for helping USF strengthen its economic ties to Tampa Bay.

“We are fortunate to have outstanding partners in the community,” Sanberg says. “And we are proud of our faculty, students and staff whose research, innovation and community engagement are making an impact that benefits our region, state and nation.”

The 2015 Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designees “demonstrate how institutions can conduct honest self-assessments to recognize strengths, weaknesses and opportunities as they work to advance economic engagement activities throughout their communities,” APLU Assistant VP for innovation and technology policy Jim Woodell says in a news release.

Along with USF, 2015 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities include Auburn University, Clemson University and Mississippi State University.

“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 explains.

The 2015 designees “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,” McPherson says.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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