SUNYCON 2011 - Universities as Economic Drivers - Measuring and Building for Success
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Materials from SUNYCON 2011: Universities as Economic Drivers - Measuring and Building for Success.

SUNYCON 2011 Agenda Poster



Monday September 26, 2011

Breakout: New Perspectives on Creating a Strong Economy

Surveying the Economic Contributions of Higher Education
The extent and nature of universities as economic actors has been the subject of increasing scrutiny. Panelists will explore efforts by the National Academy of Sciences and Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, among others, to develop new metrics to better measure the extent and impacts of entrepreneurial activity, human capital transfer, and external linkages. The discussion will include questions raised about the validity of “return on investment” claims by institutions of higher education, and how well data can be translated to help wider audiences to understand the economic consequence of higher education.

Commercializing University Inventions through Incubators and other Tech Transfer-What Works?
A variety of mechanisms have been developed to bridge the distance between advances in knowledge taking place on campuses and businesses or entrepreneurs interested in such discoveries. The panel will provide an overview of what is known about the effectiveness of university commercialization of intellectual property via incubators and tech transfer. Presentations will describe strategies used to commercialize university technology or other inventions through start-up companies and licensing, university-industry research alliances, social networking and tech transfer, from the vantage of large universities and medical centers bringing leading-edge technologies to market, and from others working with small business owners close-to-the ground.

The Global Reach of Higher Education Opening Markets Abroad, Fueling Growth at Home
An increasingly international economy requires nations, businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals to be globally competent. The panel will discuss how this new world requires institutions of higher education to provide opportunities for preparation in foreign languages, knowledge of other cultures, and experiences beyond ones country of origin. Presenters will address efforts to: attract international students to study in America; encourage domestic students to study or serve abroad during their college years; and involve higher education institutions as regional economic actors linked in a global network of knowledge-sharing. The panel will also take up contributions made by international students to the internationalization of U.S. higher education, and to regional and national economic development through their activities after graduation.


A State University FOR New York
This plenary session will report on SUNY’s current economic development activities and impact, and efforts to build New York’s economic future through the preparation of students, technology innovation, commercialization, direct business assistance and workforce development in traditional and newly emerging fields.

Breakout: Measuring the Impact of University-Driven Economic Development

Gauging Higher Education’s Role in the Regional Economy
How well do we understand and measure the consequences of higher education in regional economic development? The panel will describe some of the different pathways by which universities are conceived of as influencing their host economies, and the methods by which scholars and other researchers have attempted to measure these impacts. Presenters will address the spatial extent of spillovers from university activities on economic growth and the relationship of universities to agglomeration economies in supporting economic growth and development at the regional scale. Case examples of university-fueled regional revitalization will draw from experiences in New York, Spain, Italy and Mexico.

Assessing the Impact of University Research, Transferred Technology and Assistance on Private Firms
The panel will address what is known about the difference university programs make to private firms with which they relate in the tech-transfer setting, as well as through technical-assistance programming meant to advance the performance of assisted firms through industrial extension, access to advanced equipment, start-up assistance and other means. The session will discuss management by American universities of intellectual property and technology transfer, as well as questions of effectiveness; emphasizing what university managers have as measures of impact of their assistance or tech transfer investments, and what seems realistic in the way of expectations about universities and regional development.

Assessing Engagement and External Linkages
Institutions of higher education contribute to the economic health of their regions by providing: intellectual resources and muscle for community problem-solving; cultural and recreational facilities that enrich the community; and social bonds that lead to new products and ideas, safer neighborhoods, and stronger regional identities. This panel presentation and discussion will focus on questions of connection and metrics involving university engagement strategies and the setting for economic growth and innovation.

Comparing the Workforce We Have With the One We Need
Preparing the workforce is one of the most vital ways that institutions of higher education can affect economic innovation and growth. How well are programs aligned with future needs? The panel will discuss the crucial role universities and colleges play in identifying skills and abilities needed and tailoring training and education  programs to prepare students and current workers for the occupations and fields that lie ahead. Presenters will address how colleges are able to draw on workforce training funds in some states to aid in employer-specific training programs to foster economic growth, and to what known effects. The discussion will take up efforts to improve the effectiveness of continuing technical education programs, and will address Open Learning initiatives and their connection to economic development in New York.


There are three universal truths when it comes to quality of place: We all live in a region’s communities; we all have a stake in a region’s environment; and we all benefit when a region’s economy thrives. However, the ways we measure community and regional vitality and performance relative to regional goals remains challenging. Researchers at SUNY New Paltz’s Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) have developed a citizen-vetted, data-driven index that uses eight statistically valid and reliable indicators to measure the well-being of a region and communities within it. Based on their 2010 Mid-Hudson report that focused on Sullivan, Ulster, Orange and Dutchess counties, CRREO has developed a state-wide version of the study, which will be used to analyze county and regional well-being across the state, and how SUNY influences a region’s well-being. This presentation will detail how the study was developed, executed and its application.


Tuesday September 27, 2011



This plenary will explore the influence of universities and university systems in economic innovation, with a view toward the work ahead. Speakers will address the roles, mission-balance, understanding of effectiveness/accountability, and matters of measurement concerning the economic consequence of universities and university systems. A collaboration among Federal agencies and research institutions to document the scientific, economic, security, social and workforce results of science investments will be discussed. Presenters will also discuss the broad efforts at some of America’s leading universities to update and reapply the principles of the Morrill Act for a global society, particularly in areas of economic development, engagement, clean energy and sustainability.


Understanding the Effects of Economic Development Initiatives on the Academic Mission
There is some debate about whether economic development is a departure from or a continuation of the traditional role of higher education institutions in the United States. Does partnership in research and an emphasis on economic development efforts effectively “corporatize” the university, or is such an approach in keeping with the historic purposes and strategies of higher education institutions seeking to balance the pursuit of knowledge and service? The panel will take up the compatibility of economic growth/innovation and the traditional mission of higher education institutions.

Encouraging an Entrepreneurial Faculty
What techniques and approaches work best in encouraging faculty and administrators from across the university to think entrepreneurially and become engaged in economic innovation? The panelists will discuss various efforts at leading academic institutions to persuade and support faculty and administrators to become involved in commercialization, to engage externally, and explore entrepreneurship in new ways across the curriculum.

Building University Partnerships with Economic Development Organizations
How can institutions of higher education build stronger, more lasting relationships with economic development organizations that further areas of shared interest? The panel will outline considerations for stronger partnerships with universities from the perspective of economic development agencies at the national level, and will highlight best practices from experiences in Georgia, Michigan, and at the national association of technology transfer managers.