Three Decades of Higher Education Excellence Through Collaboration
Regional Development - 2016
“Developing a broader and deeper constituency base and creating regional programming requires the collaboration of a variety of sectors. We have found it easier to develop this base as a Consortium rather than as single institutions. In our area, regional economic development entities and P-20 organizations already exist, but developing or strengthening linkages to these organizations needs to be enhanced.”- SMHEC Presidents’ Council Chair, Dr. Vinciguerra, letter to IBHE on the value of regional development collaboration
Higher education’s traditional economic development role has been educating a workforce to meet the needs of current and targeted employers. SMHEC members represent the spectrum of higher education’s efforts toward this mission- from job training programs to doctorate programs. Our consortium offers over 1,100 programs to provide over 191,000 students each year with marketable skills.
There is a growing realization within the Higher Education community that engagement is another vital part of its mission- sometimes referred to as its “third mission”. We cannot operate in a vacuum- ignoring what is going on around us. We, as institutions and individuals, must become engaged in the issues relevant to our region.
Economic Development is a subset of engagement. It focuses on the things that Higher Education Institutions can do to help the local business community directly and to support economic development actors with resources and data. Partnerships between higher education institutions, private sector businesses, and economic development organizations are increasingly important in creating sustained economic opportunities in our regions.
Through the work of SMHEC's Regional Development Committee- meeting with the region's economic development agents, reviewing best practices, and assessing our resources - SMHEC has set as its goals:
- Spearhead the development of an innovation and entreprenurship eco-system on our campuses and throughout the region.
- Provide the strong expertise we've developed in sustainability to the region's public and private institutions.
- Act as the convener for the Southland region around issues that are important to the region.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship Eco-System
Innovation and entrepreneurship are vital pieces of a viable economic development strategy, providing the eco-system for new ideas and new businesses to develop and become the next generation of employers within the region.
Higher education possesses substantial resources that contribute to the eco-system. Research, facilities, subject matter experts, business and subject matter education, students seeking real-world learning experiences, and more are strong contributions to the development of new technologies, industries, and businesses.
Since focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship, a downtown incubator and an entrepreneurship center have opened, and another incubator/engineering center is under construction. In addition, six MakerLabs have opened throughout our SouthWorks MakerLab network.
In addition, SMHEC and our regional partners have created a hub and spoke network of MakerLabs throughout the region. The SouthWorks MakerLab Network will simultaneously support our core manufacturing cluster, spur innovation and entrepreneurship in the region, and provide enhanced STEM and manufacturing education. MakerLabs will provide new learning experiences for our students, increased access to our resources for local businesses, and opportunities for local community members to create, innovate, and potentially build new businesses.
Ten of our members have pledged to put MakerLabs on their campuses. To date, five are already operating.
Our Sustainability Committee has broadened its scope and begun helping to connect the multiple agents and resources in the region. A key activity is our Link & Leverage Forums. Municipalities, higher education, consultants, and other actors in sustainability meet to share information, make connections, and cooordinate efforts that will make our region as "green" as possible.
SMHEC is a member of the Alliance for Regional Development (Tri-State Alliance) and has representatives on each of the Alliance's working groups charged with implementing the broad recommendations of an OECD economic development strategy study of the three-state Chicagoland region. The Alliance represents the opportunity for the Southland to participate in initiatives across the 21-county greater Chicago region spanning Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.