North Dakota Higher Education Board President Kirsten Diederich, Chancellor Larry Skogen and more than 75 leaders from business, government, education and economic development gathered at the Fargodome on Dec. 13 to discuss the role of research universities and learn what research and technology parks may look like in the future.
The symposium, titled “Enhancing North Dakota’s Success: University Roles in Innovation for Economic Prosperity,” served as the kick off to a strategic planning process for NDSU’s Research and Technology Park.
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple noted the state’s challenge and opportunity to build a future workforce to meet the needs of businesses at all levels. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics need to expand at all levels, Dalrymple said. He highlighted the growth of research at NDSU. “It’s vital that we keep this ball rolling, that we articulate the importance of research to future growth of our state,” he said.
Collaborative discussions such as the symposium are important, said NDSU President Dean L. Bresciani. “Higher education is the foundation and the backbone of North Dakota’s future. If we recognize and support all three tiers of higher education in North Dakota, we have a base from which virtually anything is possible,” he said.
Changing roles of research universities and the role of land-grant universities were key parts of the discussion. “The operation, but not the mission of research is changing to one that is a vital component of a vibrant community and one that is engaged in the two-way transfer of thought, innovation and culture,” said Kelly A. Rusch, vice president for research and creative activity at NDSU.
Featured speaker Eva Klein of Eva Klein and Associates said North Dakota’s economic abundance makes it different from other states that are economically strapped. Klein, who has served as a consultant to industry, business and education clients, said that in the global knowledge economy, competitors are now collaborators and functions are organized across sectors, rather than within them.
She envisions four mega-industry clusters of the future: information and telecommunication, life sciences, advanced and sustainable manufacturing, and energy and the environment. The mission of a relevant 21st century university in this economy will be to take responsibility for cradle to grave learning, according to Klein. She expects research parks to evolve from a real estate model to what she terms university-centric, mixed-use knowledge communities.
“What the new university of the 21st century will be is an opportunity to reinvent,” said Klein. She thinks organizations will be more open and externally focused. “Nobody has a better shot at it than the land-grant institutions because it is your culture to do this.”
Over the next two months, the NDSU Research and Technology Park will be conducting interviews and gathering data with a variety of groups as part of the first phase of its strategic planning process.
“We need to collaborate to develop a strategic plan to connect research, innovation and economic development strategies for a diversified economy and robust workforce,” said Chuck Hoge, interim executive director of the NDSU Research and Technology Park.
NDSU is recognized as one of the nation's top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.