Published: June 29, 2021


Jeff Lieberson
202-478-6073 (office)
202-236-2372 (cell)

Denver, CO – The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today named the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) as one of six university finalists for its ninth annual Innovation & Economic Prosperity (IEP) University Awards.

“Being a finalist for the IEP University Award reflects CU Boulder’s dedication to developing innovative leaders, technologies, and partnerships, and to making a significant economic and societal impact both statewide and nationally,” said Bryn Rees, CU Boulder assistant vice chancellor for research and innovation, managing director of Venture Partners at CU Boulder—the university’s commercialization arm—and IEP Award submitter.

The winners will be announced during the association’s annual meeting in November. The finalists – University of Cincinnati, University of Colorado Boulder, Ohio University, Pennsylvania State University, Iowa State University, and Washington State University – are competing for four different awards that recognize exemplary and innovative case studies of economic engagement impact:

  • University of Cincinnati and Pennsylvania State University are finalists for the IEP Talent award, recognizing exemplary initiatives in education and workforce development.
  • Iowa State University and Washington State University are finalists for the IEP Place Award for exemplary initiatives resulting in social, cultural, or community development.
  • Ohio University and University of Colorado Boulder are finalists for the IEP Innovation Award, recognizing exemplary initiatives spurring innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology-based economic development.

University of Colorado Boulder 

The University of Colorado Boulder takes a multipronged approach to regional economic development, including a place-based strategy of innovation and entrepreneurship development. The university’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship initiative offers hands-on experiences for students, faculty, staff, and community and industry partners. Experiences include academic courses and co-curricular workshops, mentorship opportunities, a campus business venture competition called the New Venture Challenge, as well as a summer startup venture accelerator program, job fairs that connect students with startups, and physical maker spaces. The New Venture Challenge is the largest and longest-running venture program of its kind, connecting the campus with the Boulder community to develop and fund promising entrepreneurial ideas. Since 2009, over 700 teams have participated in NVC. Student and faculty ventures competing in NVC have gone on to raise capital, be acquired by corporate partners, and reach sustainable revenue and substantial local employment. The university’s research commercialization effort, Venture Partners, translates research breakthroughs to commercial successes through IP services, entrepreneurial training, mentorship, funding, and startup acceleration. This year, Venture Partners spun out 20 new deep technology startups, executed 60 license and option agreements, and saw its startups raise over $2 billion. Venture Partners-supported businesses employ approximately 11,500 workers and had a nearly $2 billion economic impact from 2014-2018.

All six universities are finalists for the IEP Economic Engagement Connections award, which is the top-prize in the awards competition, recognizing overall excellence and leveraging across all three award categories.

As defined by APLU’s Economic Engagement Framework – a series of tools and publications that helps institutions better know, measure, and communicate their work in economic engagement – universities collaborate with their public and private sector partners in their states and regions to promote economic growth, competitiveness, and opportunity through a variety of efforts across the categories.

“Congratulations to this year’s Innovation and Economic Prosperity University Awards finalists on their outstanding work to advance regional economic development,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “Public research universities are major engines of economic development in their region, and the IEP finalists have distinguished themselves as leaders in this space."

To be eligible for an IEP award, an institution must first earn the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University (IEP) designation from APLU, which recognizes institutional commitment to regional economic development. CU Boulder was awarded this designation in 2019.

To earn the IEP designation, universities conduct a rigorous self-study of their economic engagement activities that includes input from external stakeholders. As part of the self-study, each institution identifies areas for growth and improvement within its economic engagement enterprise and developed an improvement plan. This work demonstrates a commitment to continuous learning and improvement in this kind of engagement vital to universities and their regional partners.

Nearly 70 institutions have been named IEP Universities designees since the program was launched in 2012.

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of 244 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU's agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement.  Annually, member campuses enroll 5.0 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.3 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct $49.2 billion in university-based research.