The North Dakota University System, NDSU, and UND are partnering with the Montana University System and 11 colleges and universities from a five-state region to create a regional technology and innovation alliance. The Mountains and Plains University Innovation Alliance will leverage existing research, education, and training programs to boost the collective ability to attract and support the expansion of high-tech innovation and industry in the region. Participating institutions represent the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.
“This is a paradigm shift for research and especially innovations related to digital technology,” said North Dakota University System (NDUS) Chancellor Mark Hagerott. “It will help diversify the region and economy by achieving scale in a way that the individual states might not achieve acting alone.”
The Alliance will also partner with tribal nations, state governments, and industry leadership to develop and enact a regional agenda to ensure the 5-state region will play a central role building the technologies of the next century.
“We are proud to be partners in creating the technological solutions that our country needs now and into the future,” said David Cook, president of North Dakota State University. “Our state has already benefited from the relationships of this alliance through the new NDSU-led National Science Foundation Great Plains I-Corps Hub, which will train entrepreneurs to take research ideas to market. I commend Colleen Fitzgerald, NDSU vice president for research and creative activity, for her work in developing both the alliance and the Hub.”
“This alliance wouldn’t have happened without vision and leadership from Chancellor Hagerott and Commissioner Christian,” continued Cook. “The two formed a strong partnership to be led by Carnegie R1 institutions in each of their states. It’s a testament to their ability to see the bigger picture and will place our researchers in exactly the right place to show the world the strength of their innovations.”
Andrew Armacost, president of the University of North Dakota, said, “The spirit of research, innovation and drive that exists among the faculty and staff in this five-state alliance is simply extraordinary. There’s no better group to address the advanced technology opportunities in our rural states than the incredible universities in this region. This collaboration will advance our nation’s interests in profound ways.
“Let me commend (North Dakota University System) Chancellor Hagerott for his national leadership in catalyzing this opportunity and UND Interim Vice President for Research & Economic Development John Mihelich for his vision as he worked alongside the other universities from the start to develop this proposal,” Armacost said.
Traditionally, the U.S. innovation economy has been focused in large urban areas where there is a high concentration of tech workers. However, today’s economy has enabled broad shifts in how and where people work. This shift has brought a wave of highly skilled workers to the 5-state region due in part to the availability of additional economic opportunities, an abundance of outdoor pursuits, and a high quality of life.
“Along with my colleagues in Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, I’m thrilled to announce the formation of this partnership among so many incredible institutions,” said Montana Commissioner of Higher Education, Clayton Christian. “Each institution brings its own strengths and capabilities, including incredible research talent and expertise. By working together and leveraging shared knowledge, I strongly believe we can expand our high-tech industry and economic growth for our states as well as the region.”
At the national level, policy leaders have also recognized the importance of building a more diverse economy by providing high-tech and innovation-based investments in states with more rural and dispersed populations. The Mountains and Plains Innovation Alliance seeks to capitalize on these shifts to expand economic development and better attract federal research grants and other large-scale funding sources.
Tomorrow’s problems also demand solutions that better integrate perspectives from different cultures. As home to half of the nation’s tribal colleges, a significant focus of the Alliance is encouraging innovation-focused investments in traditionally underserved peoples and places. By focusing on expanded partnerships with tribal colleges and nations, the Mountains and Plains University Innovation Alliance can inform and support innovative solutions to critically important issues that cross boundaries and cultures.
To date, members of the Alliance have already connected researchers across the region to explore opportunities in autonomous systems, advanced materials science, quantum computing, forest and rangeland management, cybersecurity, predictive and precision agriculture, and other fields. Moving forward, Alliance members plan to engage tribal, state government, and industry association leadership in a broader conversation to identify shared needs and focus areas for the region’s emerging high technology economy.
Mountains and Plains University Innovation Alliance members:
Boise State University
Idaho State University
The University of Idaho
Montana State University
Montana Technological University
The University of Montana
North Dakota State University
The University of North Dakota
Dakota State University
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
South Dakota State University
University of South Dakota
The University of Wyoming