University Economic Development Association

2021 Finalists

Awards of Excellence Finalists

Congratulations to the 2021 UEDA Awards of Excellence Finalists. Leading initiatives from across North America competed in a six-month process, including application, peer review, online presentations, and, ultimately, selection by attendees of the annual UEDA Summit as category leaders. These projects, both finalists and winners, represent the top university-based economic development initiatives in the country, as judged by their peers.


Innovation begins with basic research, but then builds on knowledge creation to encompass knowledge transfer and application in ways that are useful and relevant to society. This category encompasses basic research; applied, translational, problem-oriented, and industry-contracted R&D; cooperative extension services; technology transfer; etc.

James Madison University JUDGES’ AWARD

JMU/BRCC/Merck Public Private Partnership in Workforce Development

University of Hawaii – Pacific Business Center Program

HITmethods: Growing Renewable Health and Economic Development Solutions

University of North Dakota – Center for Innovation CATEGORY LEADER

Legendary Leaders In Innovation

Innovation + Talent

Projects and initiatives that synergistically connect TALENT and INNOVATION, to create innovators of many kinds—business entrepreneurs, idea or product makers, and problem-solvers. Entrepreneurship education projects/initiatives and experiential learning projects/initiatives to connect students with entrepreneurs are just two examples of the types of projects/initiatives included in this category.

Florida Atlantic University

Building an Innovation Pipeline

University of Alaska Center for Economic Development CATEGORY LEADER

The Failure // Resilience Project

University of Iowa

Venture School Entrepreneurial Training Program

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

gener8tor Upskilling


Place is defined as the many and diverse ways in which institutions contribute to making attractive, competitive communities—places where people want to live, create and take jobs, raise their families, participate in civic life, and age and retire. Competitive, successful communities and regions are attentive to the health, education, environment, housing, safety, and entertainment needs of community members. Campuses and sites like research parks are components of place-making, but the focus of this definition is broader, on communities, or even on regions.

Georgia Tech

Downtown Development Strategic Assessment

University of Kentucky

Coldstream Research Campus P3 Development

Western Illinois University, Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs CATEGORY LEADER

Rural Fresh Markets

Place + Innovation

Projects and initiatives that synergistically connect INNOVATION and PLACE, to create physical places that attract and build concentrations of talent and innovators—knowledge communities. This can be construed as either or both (1) a specific site, such as a university research and technology park, incubator, accelerator, etc., or (2) a larger community, area, or region, such as an innovation district.

Georgia Southern University Business Innovation Group

Innovation Incubator (I2)

University of Georgia

Georgia Broadband Map

University of Missouri – Kansas City CATEGORY LEADER

Building Bridges for Just-In-Time Small Business Support

Wichita State University

FTRC and MRO Mod Facility


Talent includes the spectrum of knowledge transfer activities by which universities educate people, developing human capital for the 21st century Knowledge Economy. This category includes life-long learning, both degree and non-degree programs, experiential education and discovery-based learning programs, active alignment of curricula to industry needs, etc.

America’s SBDC New Jersey (NJSBDC)

NJSBDC: The Pandemic & The Pivot

California State University, Northridge CATEGORY LEADER

The AIMS^2 Program at CSUN

WiSys / UW System

The University as a Talent Engine: Fostering Entrepreneurial Skills & Talent

Talent + Place

Projects and initiatives that synergistically connect TALENT and PLACE in ways that enrich discourse, promote civic participation, and otherwise enhance quality of place.  Just a few examples include K-12 school improvement partnerships; local government training institutes; and higher education involvement in regional government, economic development organizations, and community and wellness projects/initiatives.

Georgia Southern University, Business Innovation Group

Georgia Southern Fabrication Laboratory

Tennessee Tech University, Office of Research and Economic Development CATEGORY LEADER

Rural Reimagined Grand Challenge

University of Georgia

Cherokee Workforce Collaborative

University of Virginia’s College at Wise

Rally SWVA: Placemaking and Building Leadership Capacity in Rural Southwest Virginia