UTA receives Innovation and Economic Prosperity designation

APLU recognizes UTA for economic development activities in North Texas region

Monday, May 13, 2024 • Katherine Egan Bennett : contact

UTA makerspace

In recognition of The University of Texas at Arlington’s role as a leading economic engine for the North Texas region, UTA has recently received the Innovation and Economic Prosperity (IEP) designation from APLU, the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities.

The designation recognizes UTA’s ability to engage with private and public sector partners to promote business and industry; talent and workforce development; and innovation, research and entrepreneurship. UTA is one of just 88 higher education institutions to receive this designation.

“UTA is a comprehensive research, teaching and public service institution that aspires to advance ideas with a strong economic impact and to foster a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity,” said UTA President Jennifer Cowley. “This APLU designation is a testament to the hard work of the faculty, staff and students at UTA and recognizes our significant impact on our communities and the Texas economy.”

APLU President Mark Becker said economic development is “a major pillar of universities’ work.”

“From talent development to pathbreaking research to entrepreneurship and beyond, institutions have a central role to play in economic development,” Becker said. “We’re pleased to recognize UT Arlington for its commitment to engaging its community around these issues to advance regional economic development.”

UTA’s application to earn the IEP designation was reviewed by an independent panel that assessed the University’s economic engagement activities. APLU’s Commission on Economic and Community Engagement, which manages the designation process, is a national leader in efforts to help public research universities plan, assess and communicate their work in regional, national and global economic development and community engagement.

APLU IEP designee

As part of the process for pursuing the designation, UTA leaders embarked on a rigorous self-study of the University’s entire economic engagement enterprise, inventorying its economic, academic and societal impact. This process included commissioning an economic impact study documenting that UTA and its graduates have an annual economic impact of about $27 billion in Texas and have led to the creation of nearly 227,000 jobs statewide. Within the North Texas region, UTA is responsible for about 4.2% of total employment.

UTA’s more than 41,000 students hail from more than 100 countries, making it one of the most diverse campuses in the country. The U.S. Department of Education has designated UTA as both a Hispanic- and Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution.

Within the past 15 years, UTA’s student body has grown by nearly 65% and research expenditures have increased 200%. In 2016, UTA first received the R-1 designation for “Very High Research Activity” from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, placing it among the nation’s top 4% of national research universities. In 2023, UTA received $113 million in extramural funding.

There are 24 Fortune 500 company headquarters in the fast-growing Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area, along with more than 200 companies from 40 countries with either operations or headquarters in the region.

“With such a breadth and depth of industry and corporate partners, UTA is poised to further increase its local engagement in training, research and innovation with a global impact for years to come,” Cowley said. “We have a long history of providing pathways to education and professional development for our students and community partners.”

UTA’s research arm also plays a big part in the regional economy. The direct economic impact of federally sponsored research at UTA was $38 million in 2022, with expenditures spread among 725 unique vendors. Of that total, the University spent about $24 million on research-related goods and services in Texas.

UTA further advances its engagement locally and regionally through executive leadership representation on multiple boards and commissions. For example, Cowley serves on the Dallas Regional Chamber board, the APLU Urban Serving Universities board and the Executive Committee of the Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce.

Additional support for advancing UTA’s economic engagement stems from the launch of RISE 100: Recruiting Innovative Scholars for Excellence, a recently announced endeavor supported by both UTA and the UT System Regents Research Excellence Program. This $60 million investment is helping the University recruit 100 new research-focused faculty members—a 15% increase over current numbers. This additional push for research faculty aims to strengthen the undergraduate experience, enhance graduate education and drive impact across strategic areas.

“The growth and maturation of UTA these past few years is phenomenal,” Cowley said. “It’s gratifying to see the APLU recognize how UTA innovation, talent and discovery can be a significant driver of our regional economy.”