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Old Dominion University is playing a leading role in the Hampton Roads Partnership's efforts to build an infrastructure that will ultimately benefit the region in technology-related economic development.

The Partnership, whose membership includes business, government and education leaders from the area, has turned to Michael R. Dingerson, associate vice president for research and graduate studies, for help in marketing Hampton Roads
as a major research market. It was Dingerson, in fact, who wrote a proposal last year calling for the creation of a consortium of area colleges and universities that could package its research expertise and leverage each others' resources.

Dingerson wrote the proposal following a trip last fall to Salt Lake City, where Hampton Roads officials met with their counterparts there who have experienced success in promoting economic development and attracting new businesses. At a Partnership meeting March 24, Dingerson told the group's board members that no Hampton Roads university generates as much spin-off from research and development as the smallest of the three major schools in Salt Lake City.

"Our goal is to utilize joint efforts to increase the research and development capacity of our institutions and labs that will end up attracting more technology-related businesses to this area," said Dingerson. "Increasing R & D is our highest priority."

Dingerson and James L. Eason, president and CEO of Hampton Roads Partnership, have met at least once with the presidents of the eight colleges and universities and two federal labs that comprise the education consortium, known as the Hampton Roads Research Partnership, and both are optimistic about its success.

"I think this university initiative is one of the three most important things that we're doing," Eason said. "I see this as very critical to the success of the region in trying to reshape itself and redefine itself as a high-technology area, which it is. We've just never had that image."

The Hampton Roads Partnership awarded the consortium a $250,000 grant to conduct a study and develop a marketing plan for the region. Dingerson said the Research Partnership is currently in the process of:

*Examining Hampton Roads' economic indicators and trends;

*Examining the area's high-technology indicators and trends;

*Preparing a presentation on the current Carnegie Classification of the
consortium's eight colleges and universities;

*Highlighting the amount of grants received by these area institutions as well
as the amounts for selected schools around the country that are located in
regions where comparisons can be drawn; and

*Preparing an analysis of state money received by the consortium institutions as
compared to other schools in Virginia.

The next step, Dingerson said, will be to create an image for the Research Partnership's schools and labs and then work fast to "catch up" with other regions around that country that have already "packaged" themselves.

"We have to identify areas of value that each of our institutions offers to businesses," he stated. "We must be able to answer the questions: 'What benefit is there for me, a business, to be in your region? How can you help me? Why should I be there?'"

"We have to develop a strategy that aggressively communicates the idea that our universities and labs have a vested interest in the well-being of our region, that we want to play a leadership role, that we can be of significant assistance, and that we are open and ready to do business."

Dingerson is the executive director of the Hampton Roads Research Partnership and Faith McArdle serves as project coordinator.

In addition to Old Dominion, the Research Partnership's members are: Christopher Newport University, College of William and Mary, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Hampton University, Jefferson Lab, NASA Langley Research Center, Norfolk State University, Regent University and Virginia Wesleyan College.

This article was posted on: April 11, 2000

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