PULLMAN, Wash.—Reflecting its strong commitment to economic engagement, Washington State University is one of 16 public institutions nationally recently designated as an Innovation & Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). 

The newly inaugurated APLU designation is part of an effort to acknowledge universities working 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.

“The APLU Innovation and Economic Prosperity designation recognizes public universities working within local and regional communities to promote economic engagement,” said Alexis Holzer, assistant director, of Economic Development Advancement & External Affairs for WSU.  “This is a worthy recognition of the programs and people that make WSU a critical part of the regional economy. Developing innovation, talent, and place is central to the land-grant mission, and being acknowledged for our efforts at a national level is very rewarding for the entire WSU community.”

Among the WSU economic development efforts recognized by the APLU in awarding the designation to WSU was the university’s creation of an Energy Systems Innovation Center to build on WSU’s strong power program in 2012. The Center’s program for recruitment, retention, and mentoring of future power engineering leaders in electric energy has been recognized by the industry throughout the region, and  in particular, by Avista Utilities, which pledged $325,000 over five years to purchase state-of-the-art technology for the Center’s power engineering lab.

Similarly, WSU’s spinout company Food Chain Safety (FCS) – founded in 2010 to maximize the impact of more than a decade of food sterilization research in Juming Tang’s microwave sterilization and pasteurization research program – was recognized for Tang’s new sterilization process. It carries a potential to replace the standard centuries-old practice of high-heat treatment with a gentler heating process that preserves foods’ flavor, nutrition and texture. Tang’s technology has been called “groundbreaking” and “a tipping point technology” by major international food manufacturers and is widely considered on track to revolutionize the processed food industry.

Also highlighted by the APLU in awarding the designation to WSU was the Business Growth Mentor and Analysis Program at WSU Vancouver, a pro-bono, student-conducted consultancy which provides analysis and consulting to small businesses, including advice directed towards building sales and decreasing costs—bolstering the growth competitiveness of small businesses and helping to retain jobs,

The other 15 institutions comprising  APLU’s inaugural class of  Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities are Boise State University; California State University, Fresno; Northern Illinois University; The Ohio State University; The State University of New York; University of Central Florida; University of Cincinnati; University of Georgia; University of Idaho; University of Memphis; University of Michigan; University of Minnesota; University of Missouri; University of Oklahoma; and University of Toledo.

“We’re helping to provide tools to universities to help them become even more economically engaged with their communities, which is a core value of public institutions,” APLU President Peter McPherson said. “Universities are economic engines that not only directly employ people, but also generate research-based innovation and technical expertise that allow businesses to start up, grow, and thrive.  This designation recognizes universities that are really stepping up to strengthen their local economy.”

University applications were scored by a panel of reviewers representing other universities and also national partners, including the Association of University Research Parks, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), Business – Higher Education Forum, National Association of System Heads, National Governors Association, and University Economic Development Association. Scoring was based on a range of criteria emphasizing universities’ development of their economic engagement enterprise, their planning efforts around economic engagement, strategic communications around these efforts, and participation in encouraging economic engagement among peer institutions.

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization representing 219 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and related organizations.  Founded in 1887, APLU is the nation’s oldest higher education association with member institutions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories. Annually, member campuses enroll more than 3.8 million undergraduates and 1.2 million graduate students, award over 1 million degrees, employ nearly 1 million faculty and staff, and conduct more than $37 billion in university-based research.

Alexis Holzer, WSU  Economic Development Advancement, 206-219-2404, alexisholzer@wsu.edu