Jul 17 2018

Universities Partner with Cities to Boost Budgets for Technology Projects

Higher education institutions look to collaborate with cities to develop state-of-the-art innovation hubs.

Public-private partnerships are a growing interest for institutions looking to encourage student exploration into the latest technological innovations but do not have the budget to reach their goals. 

While endowments, loans or donations can be a good way to overcome financial obstacles, some universities are partnering with city governments to establish innovative campuses for the technologically curious.

Across the country, university administrators and city officials are combining resources and knowledge to create technology centers, offering students the opportunity to push the boundaries of innovation and enticing entrepreneurial graduates to move to cities ready to become the next Silicon Valley.

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City Partnerships Expand University Capabilities

Combining the resources of a city government with the plans and ideas from higher education administrators can lead to some incredible feats.

University of California, Davis, and the city of Sacramento recently announced the establishment of Aggie Square, a 25-acre playground for the digitally curious. Outfitted with 1 million square feet of research, incubator and accelerator space, members of UC Davis and government officials see this as a stepping stone for all parties involved.

“Building this new center of innovation alongside the existing UC Davis Health campus will not only ensure a tight connection to the school’s great minds and resources but will also create jobs and economic development in the heart of Oak Park, along with more real opportunity for young people from all low-income neighborhoods in Sacramento,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg says in a statement.

This is not the first partnership of its kind. Standing in midtown Atlanta, Technology Square is a symbol of the collaboration between the city and Georgia Institute of Technology to foster a new generation of tech-savvy graduates.

Inside the center, students have access to resources like credits through Google Cloud for Startups and Microsoft for Startups, helping them grow their strengths and hone the skills employers seek.

In Durham, N.C., Duke University and city officials have seen their project, the Chesterfield Building, grow into a thriving innovation hub nestled in the downtown area.

Microsoft recently announced it would invest in a new innovation hub within the building, offering research tools through its Azure cloud software to help Duke affiliates in their academic pursuits.

How to Initiate Collaboration with Local Officials

Creating a state-of-the-art technology hub is possible for many institutions, but it can be difficult to know where to start.

Organizations like MetroLab Network offer pathways to connect cities with higher education institutions specifically for technology-based projects.

For example, through MetroLab Network, New Jersey Institute of Technology and the city of Newark have embarked on a journey to incorporate smart city technology across both the campus and the city, utilizing tools from corporate sponsors such as IBM and Panasonic for Internet of Things and internet hardware.

Additionally, Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) has a 10-step checklist for universities planning to develop their own technology hub space.

“A [public-private partnership] can give you access to essential real estate and market expertise, along with a source of financing, and can be designed to transfer risk from your institution to the private partner,” the JLL authors write.

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