Angelo State University has received a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to initiate the creation of the ASU Innovation Hub that will be a focal resource for collaboration between faculty, students and industry partners to promote research and workforce development.
Awarded through the NSF’s inaugural Enabling Partnerships to Increase Innovation Capacity (EPIIC) initiative, the grant will fund a three-year partnership project titled “Raising Rural Economic Development and Innovation.” The project will explore how higher-education innovation hubs can effectively address socio-economic underdevelopment in rural areas by harnessing local resources and leveraging a multi-state model. ASU’s partners in the project are Longwood University and Richard Bland College of William & Mary in Virginia and Independence Community College in Kansas.
The director of the project at ASU will be Dr. David Bixler, dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Research.
“The mission of the ASU Innovation Hub is to be a beacon for our campus, our region and our state as we become a leader in innovative research and economic development,” Bixler said. “We will build on the existing strengths of our campus, such as undergraduate research, technology and natural resources. We want to be audacious, look at the big picture, make research an enjoyable enterprise and show what is possible.”
The ASU Innovation Hub (ASU-IH) will ultimately serve as a single point of contact to enhance internal coordination and communications in support of research and workforce-in-training programs. It will also be a headquarters where industry partners can connect with academic leaders and researchers for research collaboration and workforce recruiting. This will create opportunities for ASU student internships, apprenticeships, training and employment, resulting in a better-prepared workforce, as well as generating regional economic development.
“Creating additional research opportunities while increasing internal and external collaborations leads to more faculty research activities,” Bixler said. “That, in turn, opens doors to more external grants and sponsorship funding, which leads to more modern equipment and facilities. Ultimately, all these components produce an enhanced and more relevant educational experience for our students across the academic spectrum.”
The initial priority for the ASU-IH will be to build its internal research capacity. As such, a portion of the grant funding will be used to hire a director, who will immediately be charged with facilitating both on-campus and external collaborations, as well as streamlining the administrative processes involved in initiating research and innovation projects.
Over the three years of the project, ASU will collaborate with the partner institutions to share ideas and information on fostering internal and external relationships, formulating research grant applications, incorporating faculty and staff expertise, and building the program infrastructure in their respective innovation hubs. The partners will also visit each other’s campuses to get a first-hand look at how the hubs are progressing.