Coalition Discusses Boosting Regional Global Competitiveness and Higher Education Innovation

Apr 27, 2015

Approximately 35 leaders from the region gathered for the Region Forward Coalition meeting April 24 to discuss bolstering the region’s economic competitiveness and higher education assets.

Terry Clower, George Mason University professor of Public Policy and Northern Virginia Chair of George Mason’s Center for Regional Analysis, spoke about boosting the region’s global competitiveness.   Clower considers Metropolitan Washington to be a œglobal city connected to the world through a legacy of diplomacy, citizens with a global perspective, and tourism. However, to ensure the economic health of the region, Clower spoke about the importance of fostering a global marketplace with a culture of openness and innovation.   To do this, Clower suggested exploring opportunities for public-private partnerships, improving connectivity among businesses and financial communities, and supporting a well-designed infrastructure-this includes cultivating the research and development centers in the region and billing them as a regional asset.

According to Ken Ulman, University of Maryland’s Chief Strategy Officer, the University is leveraging its research strengths to spur job creation and contribute to the region’s economy.   The University boasts the largest research campus in the region, and their strategic plan focuses on creating a culture of innovation.

For example, the state-of-the-art Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation, named after the creator of the virtual reality startup Oculus, will house UMD’s highly-ranked tech programs. A œreimagined Cole Field House-to be completed in 2018-will house athletics and also the Academy of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.     UMD has also developed a student-run incubator, a residential entrepreneurship program to assist upperclassmen to launch new ventures, and recently hosted Bitcamp 2014, a hackathon for students from universities across the country.

In addition to development on campus, Ulman stressed the importance of placemaking off campus.

œHaving a great university town is necessary for our success, he said.

The University has broken ground on The Hotel at the University of Maryland-a 4-star hotel and conference center meant to be the œcornerstone to the University’s vision to encourage redevelopment in College Park along Route 1.   The university has also purchased real estate for redevelopment; one such project is the œArtHouse, a future dining and entertainment venue to replace a shuttered bar in town.

Ulman suggested that the region’s research campuses-from Johns Hopkins, to UMD Baltimore and College Park-create an innovation district that rivals the research triangle of North Carolina.   UMD is also home to a Research Park, which includes tenants from NOAA to the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Ulman says the University is constantly determining how to better work alongside these federal agencies while making the Research Park a place that meets the needs of the private sector. The Purple Line is also a pivotal part of the UMD strategic plan.

Following Ulman’s presentation, Coalition members discussed the region’s ongoing economic challenges, including limited tech transfer and commercialization coming out of local universities, problems keeping venture capital in the region, and the lack of a unified, joint-venture among all of the local universities to market their academic excellence and R&D.   By the next meeting, the Coalition will be forming brainstorming groups on infrastructure workforce, working with federal labs, and identifying Region Forward targets and indicators for assessing  competitiveness.

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