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ECU harnessing big data to aid economic development

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More than 100 eastern North Carolina industry and community leaders were on hand for ECU’s Economic Growth Collaboratory launch announcement. The industry roundtable luncheons serve as an opportunity for industry leaders to share their needs with ECU leadership.


The Daily Reflector

Monday, February 4, 2019

East Carolina University will launch an effort in March to marshal high level expertise and what’s known as “big data” to drive economic prosperity in the region, the university announced last week.

More than 100 industry and community leaders on Monday attended ECU’s industry roundtable luncheon where Jay Golden, vice chancellor for research, economic development and engagement, unveiled the vision for the ECU Economic Growth Collaboratory.

“ECU will become a national model of active engagement with business and community leaders to create the organizational strategies, investments and policies that result in the growth of existing businesses, while creating a new generation of homegrown companies throughout the region,” Golden said.

Based on the Millennial Campus under development on the new 10th Street corridor, the planned collaboratory facility will gather industry, economic development, academic and community leaders in a collaborative process, a university news release said. Up to 50 participants will be able to utilize the space to develop new ideas and capitalize on opportunities to promote economic growth.

Participants will be able to explore vast computer databases of information — big data — utilizing analytical tools and approaches developed by ECU researchers in the sciences, engineering, business, education and health fields, the release said.

“The collaboratory will focus on the development of powerful new approaches which leverage big data and analytics with visualization and community-wide collaboration to find meaningful pathways and opportunities for economic growth,” the release said.

The facility will feature what the release described as “a 270-degree immersive visualization hub” that will allow collaborators to examine previously unavailable data. ECU researchers will work to develop models and  simulation allowing for a new generation of solutions and opportunities, the release said.

The effort also will provide satellite facilities throughout rural North Carolina using ECU’s network of eight Community Service Learning Centers and its Outer Banks Campus. The so-called “decision centers” will be connected to the collaboratory’s home in Greenville.

“ECU is committed to supporting the growth of businesses located in eastern North Carolina,” Golden said. “We’re not only devoted to expanding our faculty and student research base, but we’re investing in infrastructure to drive public-private partnership opportunities. A thriving research environment serves to benefit our regional industries and the collaboratory is one of the first steps toward developing mutually beneficial alliances between the university and businesses located in eastern North Carolina.”

The collaboratory officially launches in March with an initial focus on value-add agriculture, the release said. Similar efforts have been successful at other universities across the country, it said.

ECU has promised to produce the most student startup companies in North Carolina through its recently launched student microenterprise program and is in the process of developing the Van and Jennifer Isley Innovation Hub — the largest university space of its type in North Carolina ­— that will serve as an additional work space for innovative design, mentoring and prototyping. The university is also home to the Miller School of Entrepreneurship, the only named school of its kind in the state.

The collaboratory is part of ECU’s Rural Prosperity Initiative, the release said. The initiative harnesses the intellectual strengths and research resources of ECU to improve the quality of life, health, education and employment for eastern North Carolinians. Learn more about the RPI and other ECU initiatives that spur innovation.