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Iowa State one of three universities to receive national award

Posted Nov 8, 2022

Iowa State University won an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University Award for the fourth time since 2017 from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. The APLU says the annual awards are intended to honor institutions performing exemplary work to advance the economic wellbeing of their states, regions, and the nation.

The three finalists this year fell into the following categories:

  • Innovation – exemplary initiatives spurring innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology-based economic development;
  • Place – exemplary initiatives resulting in social, cultural, or community development; and
  • Economic Engagement Connections – overall excellence and excellence across all three categories

Iowa State received first place in the “Innovation” category. President Wendy Wintersteen accepted the award on Sunday, Nov. 6 at the annual APLU conference.

“Iowa State University takes pride in winning the APLU Innovation and Economic Prosperity award for the fourth time. This consistent recognition helps demonstrate Iowa State’s national leadership in research and innovation that enhances economic opportunities across Iowa and the nation,” said Wintersteen.

Previously, Iowa State received APLU awards for “Place” (2021,) “Innovation” (2020,) and “Talent” (2017.) The “Talent” category was not included as a category this year.

David Spalding, the Ivy College of Business’s Raisbeck Endowed Dean and Interim Vice President for Economic Development and Industry Engagement, says the national recognition reflects an integral component of Iowa State and its land grant mission.

“At Iowa State, we’ve used the motto ‘Science with Practice’ for over 150 years. We believe in using our science to find innovative solutions to positively impact the communities we serve,” said Spalding.

Three Examples of Innovation in 2022

Affordable Housing with Emerging Technologies

Affordable housing is a challenge for many rural communities in Iowa, especially in parts of the state recovering from natural disasters. Building homes with 3D printers could be part of the solution. The emerging technology has been promoted as a way to drastically reduce the amount of time and labor and overall costs associated with conventional construction.

Pete Evans, assistant professor of industrial design, works with a 3D printer at Iowa State. Photo by Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University.

To test different 3D printing techniques and materials, researchers from ISU and Iowa Central Community College are partnering with Brunow Contracting and CT Creek to build three heated prototype sheds this fall in Fort Dodge. Pete Evans, an assistant professor of industrial design and project leader, said the team will monitor and collect data (e.g., energy efficiency, air quality) from each of the sheds throughout the winter.

Lessons learned from the prototypes will help inform the construction of a demonstration house slated to begin late spring 2023 in Hamburg. Nearly half of the southwest Iowa town was flooded by the Missouri River in 2019, and recovery efforts are ongoing.

Iowa State received a $1.4 million grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority last year to buy equipment and materials for the project. Additional funding totaling $2.1 million will help Iowa State and its partners demonstrate the scalability of the project in Iowa. That includes:

  • Curriculum development in partnership with Iowa Central Community College to train future workers in advanced home construction;
  • Concurrent survey work across about 300 conventional affordable housing units in the same region of Iowa to measure impact of 3D Affordable Innovative Technologies housing;
  • Research in material development and testing, zoning and building codes and community engagement; and project management.

Public-private Partnerships in ag Research

The ISU Digital Ag research team at ISU includes nearly 50 university professionals and graduate students who are developing technology and products to make agriculture more productive, efficient and sustainable. That includes smart sensors and controls, machinery electronics and biomass logistics. To date, the program has created Iowa State intellectual property and software that lives in at least 29 products sold globally.

ISU Research Park and Digital Ag are working together to build a new state-of-the-art facility to meet the needs of the growing program. The new facility will allow for the Digital Ag Innovation teams’ expansion to help serve additional Iowa based manufacturing companies. Construction is expected to begin spring of 2023.

Iowa State and John Deere have also partnered to develop an 80-acre demonstration farm near Ames. The farm will allow Deere and ISU to test different growing methods over five years and collect data related to crop productivity, economic costs of production, soil health, water quality, carbon intensity and biodiversity.


Iowa State recently unveiled plans for CyTown, a $200 million multi-use district intended to connect campus, the Iowa State Center and ISU Research Park. It would be one of the first of its kind.

This project represents a continuation of a vision inspired by President James Hilton, who nearly 70 years ago had the foresight to create the Iowa State Center to support the performing arts and athletics. CYTown is a way to advance that vision. Developing space previously used as a parking lot will create a revenue stream to address deferred maintenance issues in the performing arts facilities located at the north end of CYTown.

CYTown also provides an opportunity for the Research Park to extend its footprint to meet demand for more space for entrepreneurial and innovative businesses that want closer proximity to campus to collaborate with students and faculty.

Along with a medical facility, luxury suites and retail and office space, CYTown will include an outdoor public plaza and amphitheater area that could be used on game days or for local concerts and events.

Pending final approval from the Board of Regents, work on the first phase of the project will begin in January 2023.

Iowa State Innovations Deliver Worldwide Impact

Iowa State is #16 in the nation for research expenditures among universities without medical schools and ranks among the top 100 universities worldwide awarded U.S. patents. Iowa State annually delivers a $3.4 billion impact to Iowa’s economy, and its activities support one out of every 49 Iowa jobs. Hundreds of Iowa companies benefit each year from the expertise of ISU’s Small Business Development Center and the Center for Industrial Research and Service. Every day, Iowa State’s Extension and Outreach programs deliver research-based education and resources to people, communities and businesses in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.

A recognized national leader in innovation and entrepreneurship education, Iowa State’s world-class academic programs and experiential opportunities include the Student Innovation CenterCyBIZ Lab, and Start Something Network.

The Princeton Review ranked Iowa State’s undergraduate entrepreneurship program  #11 in the nation and #3 in the Midwest for 2022 in an annual survey of over 300 colleges and universities.