Discovery Park International

The 21st Century University: Building Sustainable Communities of Growth and Development

August 26 - August 28 @ - DePaul University, Chicago


What role can and should universities play in shaping local and national economies? Twenty-first century universities are significant centers of innovation and drivers of business entrepreneurship, particularly in frontier sectors. Universities also serve as key hubs in successful economic clusters and innovative ecosystems. Their ties with business range from technology licensing and research and development (R&D) partnerships to support for student entrepreneurs. Research and teaching universities have unique and often complementary roles in their local communities. However, the university's micro-level economic impact(s) — e.g., the socio-spatial aspects of community-embedded university networks of faculty, students, and programs — remain under-analyzed, as does government policy with respect to university impact on the economy in all its multiple dimensions.


The workshop will gather an international group of scholars and policy practitioners at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, US, 26-28 August 2010, to present models based on theoretically informed and methodologically sound original research on best practices leading to positive economic impacts by universities on their local communities. Such best practices should, more broadly, allow universities to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship in their countries. The project builds on the international network established by the 2009-2010 Fulbright New Century Scholars (NCS) Project, The University as Innovation Driver. The central goal of the workshop is to create a new analytical framework for measuring university local, national, and global economic impact(s) and, in parallel, to formulate an international best practice standard for government policy to advance positive, sustainable university economic impact at all levels.


Workshop methodologies focused on university economic impact range from case study analysis, community-based experiential learning and research to geographic information systems and social network analysis. Presenters will focus on a specific set of critical questions and respond with evidence-based papers subject to workshop scrutiny, debate, and ultimately policy recommendations. These questions include:

  1. What best practice models can be identified in university economic impact in Japan, the United States, and elsewhere, particularly in terms of building innovative ecosystems and successful economic clusters?
  2. In understanding the role of universities in emerging clusters and regional economies, can existing theories and methodologies incorporate new approaches (e.g., social capital) and technologies (e.g., social network analysis, geographic information systems), or are new theoretical approaches needed? Are there better ways of measuring university economic impact?
  3. What kinds of national and local government policy can maximize positive impacts and lessen negative economic impacts of universities in local, regional and national economies? In this regard, what sort of policy blueprints can workshop output provide (e.g. incentives for public/private, research/teaching type institutions)?

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