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University of Wyoming helps form Mountains and Plains University Innovation Alliance

University of Wyoming (University of Wyoming, UW Alumni Association, Facebook)

LARAMIE, Wyo. — The University of Wyoming has joined a dozen colleges and universities across the Northern Plains and the Rocky Mountain West to form a regional technology and innovation alliance that aims to provide lasting opportunities for innovation-led economic growth.

Through the Mountains and Plains University Innovation Alliance, research-focused colleges and universities in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota will collaborate to leverage existing research, education and training programs to boost their collective ability to attract and support the expansion of high-tech innovation and industry in the region.

Additionally, the alliance will partner with tribal nations, state governments and industry leadership to develop and enact a regional agenda to ensure the five-state region will play a central role building the technologies of the next century.

“As Wyoming’s land-grant and flagship university, we’re excited to join other institutions in the region to advance and diversify our economy through university-based innovation, something to which all parts of the university can contribute,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “By working together, our rural states will be much more competitive in the growing federal research funding landscape.”

“This is a paradigm shift for research and especially innovations related to digital technology,” North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott said. “It will help diversify the region and economy by achieving scale in a way that the individual states might not achieve acting alone.”

Traditionally, the U.S. innovation economy has 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 five-state region due, in part, to the availability of additional economic opportunities, an abundance of outdoor pursuits and a high quality of life.

At the national level, policy leaders have 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 University Innovation Alliance seeks to capitalize on these shifts to expand economic development and better attract federal research grants and other large-scale funding sources.

“The opportunities for transformative funding for research and innovation are growing, and UW’s participation in the new alliance will better position Wyoming to compete for these dollars,” said Parag Chitnis, University of Wyoming vice president for research and economic development. “Our state’s efforts to grow and diversify our economy will be enhanced.”

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 hopes to inform and support innovative solutions to critically important issues that cross boundaries and cultures.

Members of the alliance already have connected researchers across the region to explore opportunities in autonomous systems; advanced materials science; computing, including quantum computing and artificial intelligence; future energy frontiers; forest and rangeland management; cybersecurity; predictive and precision agriculture; creative economy; 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-tech economy.

In addition to UW, Mountains and Plains University Innovation Alliance members are:

Idaho — Boise State University, Idaho State University and the University of Idaho.

Montana — Montana State University, Montana Technological University and the University of Montana.

North Dakota — North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota.

South Dakota — Dakota State University, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota.