An increasing number of local and regional businesses turn to the University for access to its enormous talent, substantial resources, and excellent facilities. The Business Engagement Center is designed to play a vital role in providing businesses with sponsored research opportunities, consulting expertise, technology or intellectual property transfer assistance, licensing information, access to its facilities and equipment, students for internships or employment, and customized workforce training and skills development.
“The Business Engagement Center is a focal point for faculty and students to interact with industry in meaningful and innovative ways,” said URI President David M. Dooley. “The new Center is URI’s front door for business to navigate the talent and knowledge that URI offers. It’s a one-stop shopping model, responding to companies’ needs and operating in real time, at the speed of business.”
As part of the launch held at GTECH headquarters in Providence, President Dooley was joined by industry and government officials Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, Speaker of the Rhode Island House Gordon D. Fox, Rhode Island President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed, GTECH Senior Vice President for Corporate Communications Robert Vincent ‘75, and President of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce Laurie White ‘81.The Business Engagement Center is located on the Kingston Campus.
“Through the Business Engagement Center, companies will have a gateway to all of the resources the University of Rhode Island has to offer. This is another example of the University being forward thinking,” Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said. “This type of innovative private-public collaboration will allow businesses to work with URI’s assets and form a strong pool of well-qualified professionals.”
Choosing to launch at GTECH, one of Rhode Island’s most visible business success stories, was deliberate. “GTECH has already engaged with URI on several levels,” says Center Executive Director Katharine Hazard Flynn, who is also the director of corporate and foundation relations at the URI Foundation. GTECH has sought out students from the University’s writing and rhetoric program to assist with proposal writing, worked with the computer science department, and has collaborated with the MBA program on three sponsored projects, one in new product development and two in workplace internal process development.
“GTECH is a great example of a company coming in the door thinking they needed one resource, like interns, and realizing quickly that URI has a great deal more to offer,” said Flynn.
Dooley has been impressed with the success of the University of Michigan’s Business Engagement Center and believes that its model will easily translate to URI. “Michigan is the gold standard for this type of initiative,” he added.
Seven years ago, the University of Michigan started a business engagement center in its engineering school and, since then, has expanded its original program to encompass the broader institution and other state schools. “At URI, we can quickly ramp up our services, given our size, our prime location, and the agility of our faculty, students, and staff,” said Flynn.
House Speaker Fox said, “The General Assembly enacted several bills this year to improve our state’s economic development efforts, and this exciting initiative fits perfectly with our goals of attracting new businesses and helping existing companies to succeed and grow. I congratulate URI on its Business Engagement Center, which will prove to be an invaluable resource for our business community.”
Senate President Weed said, “This is a very exciting initiative to help companies access the talent and knowledge that URI has to offer. Creating partnerships with academia that can help businesses start, grow and create jobs here in Rhode Island will strengthen the economy.”
Flynn envisions businesses making one phone call or one email inquiry to the Center and having all their needs easily met, thanks to a robust and user friendly web portal that will contain complete and updated information regarding URI, research, career events, and more at the following website http://web.uri.edu/bec/.
Workforce development is a key area of the Center’s focus. Taco, a third-generation, family-owned residential and commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning company with headquarters in Cranston, will start an onsite MBA program in the fall through the College of Business Administration.
URI will not only serve as a resource to local and regional companies, but natural partnerships will evolve and lead to increased hiring of the University’s undergraduate and graduate students in a range of fields. Students will meet real challenges, solve real problems, and gain the advantage of an expanded network of business connections.
“The holistic approach is very appealing, and very practical,” said URI alumna and chamber president White. “This is the right direction for Rhode Island – more collaboration among the sectors that have the potential to grow our economy, with sustainable jobs that give our bright young graduates a reason to stay.”
Beyond economic benefits to the state and region, the Business Engagement Center is also designed to build partnerships, inspire philanthropy, and attract new research dollars to the University.
The Center will be funded through the University of Rhode Island Foundation, the President’s 21st Century Fund, and the Office of the Provost.