The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) has 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 research, policy and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Watkins assigned 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 UofU’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 UofU campus and the University Alumni Association board and conducted focus groups with leaders in industry, government and economic development agencies.

Watkins said feedback was virtually unanimous in advocating for a centralized office empowered by UofU 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.

The UofU 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.”

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