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An effort to ramp up production of face shields when the COVID-19 pandemic hit is one example of Iowa State’s innovation and discovery that the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities recognized with its 2020 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Innovation award. Photo courtesy of Iowa State University News Service
11.12.2020

APLU recognizes Iowa State for innovation

By Angie Hunt, Iowa State University News Service

Ten days after a meeting with Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS), an Ottumwa-based molding company had designed and ramped up production of a halo to attach to face shields developed by a Mason City printing firm.

CIRAS facilitated the collaboration to address a critical need in March for personal protective equipment for medical professionals and others on the frontlines of the pandemic, and help the companies keep employees working. It is just one example of Iowa State’s innovation and discovery that the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU) recognized with its 2020 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Innovation award.

“This recognition by APLU is a testament to our faculty, staff and students who are living our new brand campaign Innovate at Iowa State,” said Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen. “Through our culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, Iowa State University is a proven leader in creating economic opportunities and fueling growth for the state of Iowa and beyond.”

The award also recognized the opportunities for innovation and collaboration through the new Student Innovation Center and the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, as well as support for startups from the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations (EDIR). David Spalding, interim vice president for EDIR, says Iowa State is building an ecosystem to grow and support entrepreneurs in Iowa.

For example, the Pappajohn Center offers innovative programs, such as CYstarters and CyBIZ Lab, to connect students, community entrepreneurs, business professionals and alumni. CYstarters is an 11-week summer accelerator program for students and recent graduates launching a startup or developing a business idea. Students can gain hands-on experience through CyBIZ Lab working with companies and organizations to find innovative solutions to real-world business issues.

“While starting a new business is the traditional application of entrepreneurship, Iowa State is expanding this definition by creating opportunities for students to develop an innovation and entrepreneurial mindset through coursework and hands-on learning,” Spalding said. “By embedding innovation and entrepreneurship more deeply into its culture and curriculum, Iowa State is creating a unique pathway for its students to change the world.”

EDIR’s centers and programs provide services that generate economic benefits to companies in all 99 Iowa counties. Initiatives, such as Iowa State’s National Science Foundation-funded Innovation Corps program, a collaboration with the Office of the Vice President for Research, and the Startup Factory are helping scientists and engineers translate their problem-solving innovations to the marketplace.

Anuj Sharma, an Iowa State associate professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, and a research scientist at the Institute for Transportation, established a company – with the help of Innovation Corps – that uses big data technology to improve traffic flow and safety. Leveraging EDIR’s support system helped Sharma’s company further advance its technology towards commercialization.