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Thursday, Oct 30, 2014

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Pam Benoit, Executive Vice President and Provost

Joe Shields

Joseph Shields, Vice President for Research and Creative Activity

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OHIO Innovation Study looks at opportunities to advance


Ohio University has undertaken an initiative to identify opportunities to advance the University’s agenda in innovation. The focus of the planning, which is led by Athens campus deans and senior leadership, is on developing strategies for collaborative research and innovative academic programs that benefit OHIO students and faculty, while engaging with communities regionally and globally. Facilitating the process is Eva Klein & Associates (EKA), a higher education consulting practice that specializes in university strategic planning.  

The University’s objectives for this initiative are:

  • Identify college- and university-level innovation strategies that can respond to social and economic needs in the region, state, and beyond; identify program opportunities that involve more than one college; align college-level opportunities with university-level strategic priorities

  • Develop strategies for expanding and leveraging opportunities for partnerships presented by OHIO’s emerging statewide footprint, including Dayton, Dublin, and Cleveland, and help determine what academic programs or activities should be expanded to the new satellite locations

  • Strengthen OHIO’s response to State of Ohio and Ohio Board of Regents mandates for increasing the beneficial impact of university-based innovation in economic development of the State and its regions and communities

  • Support intelligent growth in Athens and surrounding communities, potentially leveraging land assets, including the Athens Campus and The Ridges, to foster university-industry partnerships

  • Strengthen further OHIO’s already well-developed infrastructure of programs and services to support entrepreneurial enterprise and commercialization of emerging technologies and research

  • Identify promising innovation programs for special investments of resources

EKA’s initial data gathering was completed in Fall 2013. Information was collected through interviews with key OHIO personnel and partners in Cleveland and Dublin; and extensive review of key data including regional and national statistics, college-level initiatives and planning, information about the University’s current state, and University planning documents. EKA’s consultant team provides content input from its knowledge of innovation strategy trends at universities nationally.  

Concurrent with this background research, EKA engaged OHIO leadership in a discussion of OHIO’s definition of innovation—a term that has varying definitions in practice—ranging from a narrow version centered on technology transfer and incubation to a very broad concept that would establish innovation as a foundational property of the University. OHIO leadership adopted a broad definition of innovation that permeates research, partnerships, instruction, education delivery, and institutional decision-making.  

Thus, OHIO’s pathways for innovation encompass:

  • Business and Economic Innovation—through effective entrepreneurship, advancement of new technologies and support of new businesses and jobs;

  • Public Policy and Social Innovation—through application of entrepreneurial approaches to strengthen public policy and the work of public and social agencies to promote the greater good;

  • Quality of Place Innovation—by creating means to improve the quality of Ohio’s rural communities --especially in southeast Ohio– but also applicable to urban settings, so that these communities are attractive to creative individuals and businesses that further enhance the quality of life;

  • Teaching and Learning Innovation—by finding improved ways to support the success of OHIO’s learners and to produce the human capital and talent that is essential to drive innovation in the 21st century

  • Institutional Innovation—by evolving operations of the University to make balanced decisions, use resources more effectively, and enhance our strategic advantages to compete for talent and resources.

Working from a broad definition and pathways to innovation, and under the joint direction of Provost Pam Benoit, Vice President for Research and Creative Activity Joseph Shields, and Vice President for Finance and Administration Steve Golding, a Leadership Team with broad participation by the academic deans has been working since December toward defining university-wide strategic priorities and implications for college-level strategies. The process is iterative, with modeling and evaluation of potential foci for research and innovation investments.  

With Shields, the consultants also have begun to work with a separate internal group, to review current activities and future goals for university commercialization activity and support for entrepreneurs in the region.

The Innovation Strategy Study will continue through spring semester 2014, with a final report slated for completion in summer 2014. The EKA team will make a progress presentation to OHIO’s Board of Trustees on March 13.

Questions should be directed to Vice President Shields at shieldj1@ohio.edu.

The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost provided the information contained in this report.