Connecting Industry Leaders With University Resources – Iowa State University’s EDIR

Connecting Industry Leaders With University Resources – Iowa State University’s EDIR

Excerpt from the article “”Q&A with outgoing Economic Development and Industry Relations vice president“” by Julie Lelonek, Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations

Mike Crum, who for the last five years has led the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations (EDIR), stepped down at the end of [June 2018]. In his role [vice president for economic development and business engagement], Crum oversaw six key economic development units and a number of affiliated programs that provide to Iowa State’s clients and partners integrated business, technical, entrepreneurial support, and educational services.

[The following is part of Mike’s answer to the question: What would you say are your main accomplishments?]

There have been a number of significant accomplishments made by our team, so many that it is difficult to list all of them. EDIR is blessed with outstanding program directors and highly competent, passionate, and dedicated staff.  I do strongly believe, however, that it was the creation of the EDIR organization that enabled us to ramp up our impacts and establish a true economic development brand and identity for the university. EDIR brought together university units that have direct interactions with companies and entrepreneurs.  We were established to make Iowa State more accessible, to integrate and expand the technical and business support services we provide, and to strengthen the university’s entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem.

It was not just the creation of EDIR, but the phenomenal growth, expansion and success of the ISU Research Park and the launch of the ISU Startup Factory that played key roles in attaining the IEP designation.  The Research Park serves as a vehicle for companies to access Iowa State’s entire value proposition of talent, research expertise, and research infrastructure. The Research Park has companies of all ages and sizes; we have startups and emerging companies and more and more we are attracting well-established Iowa companies. The university’s academic programs benefit greatly from having these companies close by as they are offering fabulous internship and work experiences for their students, and they’re engaging with researchers.

In June 2016, we launched the ISU Startup Factory to provide a clear, accessible and comprehensive support system to help researchers and inventers move their technologies and innovations from campus to market.  This unique, 52-week accelerator program has produced remarkable outcomes during its short existence, and is viewed as the premier program in the state and one of the best in the Midwest.  It is based on best practices we’ve observed across the country but adapted to mesh with Iowa State’s culture.

In a similar vein, the launch of the CYstarters program by the ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship has greatly enhanced the university’s support of student entrepreneurs.  CYstarters is a competitive 10-week summer accelerator that uses private funds to support student businesses.  It has elevated Iowa State’s commitment to providing students with top-notch experiential learning opportunities. There are tremendous synergies between Startup Factory and CYstarters, particularly in the volunteer network of mentors, advisers, and instructors.

The robust ecosystem we have developed for innovation and entrepreneurship has attracted national attention in the academic community.  In the past year alone, we’ve had seven or eight universities travel to Ames to learn more about what we are doing. I know that several are contemplating a change similar to our model. When people come to you for best practices, that’s a really nice team compliment.

I am also extremely proud of the huge economic contributions made by both CIRAS and SBDC every year, and the strong reputation each center has earned across the state for partnering with other economic development groups.  SBDC and CIRAS epitomize the statewide reach of Iowa State University as they have clients in every Iowa County. The impact they have on the number of jobs created or saved, sales growth, capital infusion, and cost savings and avoidance is truly astounding.  Additionally, not only are both organizations highly regarded within the state, both have strong national reputations.

To learn more about Iowa States’ Economic Development and Industry Relations, and the work they do to support business and industry in Iowa please visit their website.

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