To assist external stakeholders in accessing the unique capabilities and services of Iowa State University, the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations (EDIR) was formed in 2014. EDIR provides a single point of contact or “one-stop shop” to streamline the process of making connections between industry and the university.
EDIR connects companies and individuals with university capabilities and expertise in business and technical assistance, research and development, facilities (including the ISU Research Park, laboratories, and equipment), and workforce development.
The department is managed by interim vice president for economic development and industry relations David Spalding who says the primary purpose of EDIR is to bring a coordinated approach to economic development while creating an “environment of innovation” that involves components on the ISU campus and key industries across the state.
“The economic development piece on a university campus like ours is so large that it really needs its own department to lend the proper focus to it,” says Spalding, who is also Raisbeck Endowed Dean in the Ivy College of Business at Iowa State. “With the way federal funding has plateaued, it is increasingly important for us to facilitate partnerships with private industry to drive research and development on campus.”
There are four primary divisions overseen by the EDIR office:
Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS)
The Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) works to build healthy communities in Iowa through business prosperity. CIRAS provides an array of services rooted in applied research and established best practices, including: Emergency Management, Engineering, Government Contracting, Industrial Research, Innovation, Management Practices, Productivity, Quality Management, Supply Chain Management, Sustainability, and more.
ISU Research Foundation (ISURF) and Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer (OIPTT)
A non-profit entity that manages the protection and commercialization of its research results, the ISURF works closely with Iowa State University’s OIPTT. Together they protect research results and work with companies to transfer these results for the use and benefit of society.
Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship
The ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship is the catalyst that brings together the people and ideas necessary for launching or growing successful enterprises. Whether the undertaking is a student initiated enterprise, a new small business, a high technology start-up, or a corporate spin-off, the Pappajohn Center provides assistance and resources toward individual elements of the development process or to the entire launch of the new venture.
Small Business Development Centers
The Iowa Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) provides free, confidential, customized business advice in all 99 Iowa counties to businesses with 500 employees or less. With 15 regional centers located across the state, SBDC offers business counseling and training focused on specific business needs.
“We are trying to collaborate and communicate more effectively across the university to identify and take to market the many incredible ideas, inventions, and innovations springing from our classrooms and labs,” Spalding says. “It helps to present our industry leaders with an easily accessible ‘front door’ to explore partnership opportunities.”
Iowa State is blazing a new trail in offering such a coordinated approach to economic development and relations with industry. Crum says the new department is being built from the ground-up to address the unique needs of the Iowa State community and to appeal to the needs of the top industries in the state. Few universities in the country have launched an approach as coordinated as Iowa State’s.
Spalding’s team is led by Bill Adamowski and Kristine Johansen who offer skills that make them perfect for their work in EDIR.
Adamowski has deep roots in information technology and has been the principal involved in the development of several successful start-ups. Johansen has a background in biotechnology and “speaks the language” of the complex, cutting-edge ag science firms looking to partner with ISU to solve problems and develop products.
Having such a skilled staff – coupled with easier access to staff, students, facilities and services across campus – is key to selling industry on the value of partnering with Iowa State.
“We are the entry point for those who aren’t sure how they can best be helped by Iowa State,” Spalding says. “We are developing the relationships on campus that make it easy for us to find the best fit. We want to identify startups with potential sooner. We want to connect our faculty, staff and students with industry leaders sooner. We want to proactively drive innovation and economic development on campus and in the state.”
And Spalding says there is one key point to keep in mind.
“We didn’t create the EDIR department because we had a problem,” he says. “We were formed to build on what we already had and to expand on what we could offer to the university and external stakeholders. Strategically there are a lot of incredible things happening at Iowa State. Our goal is to ensure we find practical application for as many of them as possible.”