University Led Economic Development

University Led Economic Development

How Universities Spur Economic Development and Entrepreneurship in the Ecosystem

During this Q&A session, Sherrod, Julie & Cameron cover:

  • How to support startup founders beyond your campus
  • University’s Role in fostering regional development
  • Adapting to the Pandemic
  • How to define and measure success in economic development 

Watch the talk below or read the summary!

Universities play a pivotal role in regional economic development by nurturing entrepreneurship and connecting various stakeholders within their ecosystem, as evidenced by the work of Indiana University and Sacramento State University. 

Julie Heath and Cameron Law both serve as Executive Directors to these institutions, respectively, leading organizations aimed at accelerating entrepreneurship and innovation. 

IU Innovates is a new, university-wide initiative to accelerate entrepreneurship at Indiana University. The Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship serves as a regional hub and platform for providing approachable and accessible entrepreneurial education, community and support to enable startup founders of all backgrounds to start and scale their businesses.

“If you look at the data, 65% of students that graduate from Sacramento State stay, live and work in the region,” Law said. “This Center can impact the mindset and the culture of our region and really foster innovation and an entrepreneurial appetite.”

The three of us sat down to discuss the role of universities in fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems and how each of them is leveraging resources and networks to support startups and innovation within their own communities.

 Universities have unique advantages in ecosystem building, including a vast network of alumni, faculty, and students, access to research and development resources, and a long-term perspective on community and economic development.

 While navigating university structures and aligning them with fast-paced entrepreneurial activities requires a balance between leveraging institutional strengths and fostering agility and innovation, universities ultimately provide a stable, long-term platform for ecosystem building.

“If you are developing a new material or method for solving a complex problem, to go from hunch to first customer might take 10 or 11 years,” Heath said. “A university is one of the few organizations that can operate on that extended timeline and play that long game.”

Heath and Law both emphasized the importance of connecting university resources with external organizations, including government bodies and nonprofits, to strengthen the overall ecosystem. Building bridges between university resources and external entities can enhance the flow of knowledge, funding, and support, creating a more cohesive and effective ecosystem.

Heath touched on IU’s role in connecting faculty and students to the next step in their entrepreneurial journey.

“Being able to have a friction-free front door where there is a door to walk through and someone on the other side of the door to assess where you are, what you need and get you to commercialization is valuable.”

Being able to connect and create access points as well as increase student engagement in entrepreneurship, startup growth, and the overall connectedness and vibrancy of the entrepreneurial ecosystem are all success measurements in this work. 

Both Heath and Law envision a future where universities play an even more significant role in economic development, leveraging their resources and networks to drive innovation and entrepreneurship. The future is bright, where universities become central nodes in their regional ecosystems, facilitating connections and providing support to a wide range of stakeholders. The challenge is effectively communicating the value of ecosystem building to stakeholders.

“In order to get people to do this work, you have to be able to communicate why this work matters,” Law said. “There’s not a ton of people doing this work, doing the dot-connecting. They are running programs to demonstrate success to say entrepreneurship is a core driver for economic development, but also, in order to do that, you have to be connecting people and organizations to do that.”

Which comes down to storytelling. Communicating the impact and value of ecosystem building by highlighting success stories, using data to demonstrate impact, and tailoring the narrative to resonate with different stakeholders, from entrepreneurs to policymakers, is crucial for gaining support and driving engagement.

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