Op-ed: K-State fusing research to economic development in the state
Editor's note: The following commentary was prepared by Kansas State University Vice President for Research David Rosowsky.
There are some remarkable things happening in Kansas. Our public higher education institutions have played an important role in educating Kansans over the years, preparing graduates for life and work and serving their communities in myriad ways. A subset of those public universities — our research universities — have been essential economic engines in our state. These institutions are talent and resource magnets, leaders in scientific discovery and generators of licensable technologies. They also attract students and faculty to Kansas, compete for federal grants to support their research and engage with industry partners in research, discovery and innovation.
Kansas State University is one of Kansas' three public research universities and the state's only land-grant university, which adds two important functions to our dual mission of educating and serving Kansans:
• A robust and publicly engaged College of Agriculture.
• Extension, a model that connects the expertise and knowledge at the university to every county in the state in topics ranging from agronomy to education, family sciences to economic development and so much more.
K-State also has the privilege and distinction of being the nation's first operational land-grant university, a forever point of pride for Kansas and Kansans.
What's happening today in Kansas is new and exciting, and it's something to which every Kansan should be paying close attention. The state is actively recruiting companies with new levels of energy, vision and commitment — big companies with high-paying jobs in critical and emerging growth sectors such as energy storage, semiconductors, drug discovery, animal health, agricultural technologies, biomanufacturing and aviation.
Kansas' public research universities must be steadfast partners with the state in recruiting these companies, meeting their workforce needs and creating meaningful and productive industry-university partnerships. Companies are attracted to locations having a great university, a supportive community and commitments from both. Kansas has been successful in recent years and will continue to be successful in the years ahead because of our people, our work ethic, our culture and our values. We hear this time and time again, and we take enormous pride in our state. Our citizens want Kansas to be a great state — for families, businesses, communities and future generations — and we will roll up our sleeves to make it so.
K-State has fully aligned itself with the state's strategies to recruit companies and jobs to Kansas. We have done this through our bold and ambitious Economic Prosperity Plan for Kansas. We have done this through our investments in research that support emerging technologies and economic development. We do this through workforce development. We do this through partnerships. Our university is changing, operationally and physically, to be more responsive to industry needs and more valuable to our state in connecting research and innovation to economic development and job creation.
How are we changing operationally? We are becoming more nimble, more adaptive and more intentional about connecting to employers hiring our graduates and partnering with our researchers. We are incentivizing innovation and partnerships. We are developing new education and training programs, leveraging new modalities of delivery and reaching new audiences. We are partnering with technical colleges and community colleges in new ways.
How are we changing physically? We are embedding industry professionals on our campus. We are building new facilities for industry and K-State researchers — faculty and students — to work together, learn from one another and create the technologies that will drive the jobs and industries of tomorrow. Companies are choosing open offices in K-State's rapidly growing Edge District on the Manhattan campus and in our communities of Manhattan, Salina and Olathe. We are taking full advantage of their proximity, interests and resources.
K-State is a great partner to the governor and lieutenant governor, the Kansas Department of Commerce, our communities' chambers of commerce and regional economic development councils. By intentionally connecting research to economic development, K-State will become an even more valuable asset and partner to the state. We need to fully embrace the role of our public research universities in creating and securing the future of Kansas. We must continue to invest in this largest economic driver. We are more than a public good — we are a proven product.
David Rosowsky is vice president for research at Kansas State University.