ECU Chosen as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University

The Daily Reflector

By Holly West

GREENVILLE, NC (July 6, 2015) – East Carolina University is being recognized for its community partnerships by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, which chose ECU as one of 18 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities.

Since 2013, the APLU has given the designation each year to several universities that work with public- and private-sector partners in their areas to support economic development through innovation and entrepreneurship, technology transfer, talent and workforce development, and community development.

Ted Morris, associate vice chancellor for innovation and economic development, said ECU has developed partnerships in many of these areas.

“Whether they be education, industry, government, community partners — they all matter because they can all help contribute,” Morris said. “They all offer significant areas for innovation.”

According to a study recently released by the University of North Carolina system, ECU had an economic impact of $2.8 billion in the state in the 2012-13 fiscal year, with more than half of that being in the eastern part of the state.

The university also brought nearly $100 million in sponsored research support to the region from 2011-13, according to an ECU news release.

Sharon Paynter, interim director of ECU’s Office of Public Service and Community Relations, said service is a core part of ECU’s mission.

“We have a responsibility as a community partner to do the best we can for building capacity across the eastern region of the state, to aid communities in developing talent, developing economic strategies, to drive regional transformation,” she said.

Paynter and Morris pointed to several ECU initiatives — such as the N.C. Agromedicine Institute, the Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Academy, the Pharmaceutical Development and Manufacturing Center of Excellence and the Talent Enhancement Capacity Building Program — as examples of the university’s commitment to service, research and development in the state.

ECU also is developing a “millennial campus,” which will allow it to partner with private business and industry to create new ideas and technologies.

Morris said the APLU designation not only recognizes the work that has been done, but pushes ECU to strive for even better.

As part of the application process, ECU had to conduct an assessment of its regional economic development efforts and create a comprehensive improvement plan. A 30-person task force, chaired by Paynter, led the effort.

“The designation itself is the result of a collaborative effort, a team-based approach and we’re really pleased we were able to achieve it,” Paynter said. “We spent two years understanding what the community needs and expectations are and what our resources are to do economic development and community engagement. We interviewed a series of stakeholders inside and outside the university to determine what those interests are.”

Paynter said the task force used their findings to develop a strategy called DRIVE East. DRIVE is short for Development, Research, Innovation, Vitality and Engagement.

The main needs identified by the task force were workforce development, building industry clusters and strengthening community partnerships, Paynter said.

The strategy will allow ECU to build upon the community partnerships it already has in place.

“It’s a roadmap for us as an institution to continue to grow,” Morris said.

Contact Holly West at hwest@reflector.com or 252-329-9585.