- EdTech reports what some see as a growing trend where universities partner with local communities to provide new facilities for student exploration— often in high tech fields — with benefits for the students, college and local citizens.
- It describes several locations where colleges have benefited from such arrangements, including a “playground for the digitally curious” developed by the City of Sacramento and the University of California, Davis, and a Technology Square in downtown Atlanta that is a collaboration between the city and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
- The article also describes ways for higher education to initiate connections like these, including using firms that facilitate them.
The consulting firm Jones Lang LaSalle has developed a list of 10 tips for universities, businesses and surrounding communities to develop innovation labs cooperatively. The company reports that in both rural and urban areas such centers can provide a “valuable gateway between university talent and resources and the private sector.” “With thoughtful planning, they bring together students, researchers, administrators, facilities and equipment…to commercialize new technologies and breakthrough ideas emerging from your campus community,” the introduction to the list says.
It notes that such initiatives can improve relations, provide grant funding, create spin-off companies, develop new industry partners and attract faculty and students, but it also says that they can be complex and recommends a formal public-private partnership.
The firm MetroLab Network helps colleges and communities connect, specifically for technology-based projects. It worked with New Jersey Institute of Technology and the City of Newark to establish a center that will help both the college and the city improve its tech infrastructure, as well as connecting with corporate sponsors such as IBM and Panasonic.
Meanwhile, Duke University and Durham, N.C., officials have worked together to develop an innovation hub known as the Chesterfield Building in an abandoned cigarette factory. Microsoft says it will invest in the effort, offering new research tools for the some 350 students using it.
One popular structure for such partnerships involves universities doing the research and development and cities “acting as testing places to determine the results,” potentially solving real-world problems that communities face. Experts say such arrangements can also lessen traditional tensions between colleges and college towns about issues such as student behavior or traffic during special events.
These partnerships can also benefit the community. University of Maryland works with the City of College Park in an arrangement that has provided local services and supported home ownership by university and city employees to reduce commutes and strengthen neighborhoods. The City-University Partnership has worked on other commercial revitalization and community development projects.