Published: Nov. 16, 2021

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today named the University of Colorado Boulder a 2021 Innovation & Economic Prosperity (IEP) awardee. The IEP Innovation Award recognizes exemplary initiatives spurring innovation, entrepreneurship and technology-based economic development.

To be eligible for the award, an institution must first earn the APLU’s IEP designation, which recognizes institutional commitment to regional economic development. CU Boulder earned the IEP designation in 2019, setting the stage for the Innovation Award. Both distinctions represent significant milestones on the path to “be a top university for innovation.”

“Innovation is at the heart of our mission as a public research university, engaging individuals from every field of study at CU Boulder,” said Chancellor Philip DiStefano. “I’m proud of the collaborative nature of our researchers, staff and students that allows the university to contribute to the prosperity and economic competitiveness of our region, state and nation. These awards are affirmation of the critical work happening here and provide momentum for the future.”

The honors recognize the collective quality, efforts and impact of the university’s innovation ecosystem, including contributions of faculty, students, staff and a range of innovation partners, from federal labs and industry to community mentors and investors.

CU Boulder’s innovation ecosystem

CU Boulder takes a multipronged approach to regional economic development, including a major effort to develop 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. Opportunities include academic courses and co-curricular workshops, mentorship experiences, New Venture Challenge—a campus venture competition, as well as a summer startup accelerator program, job fairs connecting students with startups, and physical maker spaces.

New Venture Challenge (NVC) is the largest and longest-running venture program of its kind, ranked 13th nationally and 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 at CU Boulder, also helps translate research breakthroughs to commercial successes. Last year, Venture Partners formed 20 new deep tech startups and completed over 60 license and options agreements. The total startup portfolio raised over $2 billion in capital in the same period, a significant contribution to the Colorado and national economies.

“The impact of the research, creative work, innovation and commercialization emanating from CU Boulder extends far beyond the classrooms and labs here on campus,” said Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Terri Fiez. “The innovative contributions of our campus benefit local, state and national economies in many ways, including the creation of companies and technologies to solve society’s pressing challenges, and the cultivation the workforce of the future.”