Defining Innovation Across the University
University at Buffalo
Designing a master plan to spur innovation strategy specific to the three distinct campuses of the University at Buffalo
The University at Buffalo (“UB”) is New York’s leading public research institution and a major driver of economic innovation in the City of Buffalo and greater Western New York region. As the University looked to continue its growth as a world-class public research university, it saw a critical opportunity to ensure its growing research initiatives would also connect to its surrounding neighborhoods. In doing so, UB would be able to link global and local impacts of innovation and help catalyze the innovation economy of Buffalo.
To these ends, in 2017 UB engaged U3 Advisors in partnership with Sasaki Associates and Corneil Collaborative to develop an innovation master plan for UB’s three campuses in Buffalo, NY. Each of its three campuses serve distinct academic focus areas, with specific geographic and economic contexts, so that the form and substance of “innovation” would vary greatly at each campus. Over a 12-month period, our team developed a long-range plan that considered the complexities and needs of each campus at UB from policy, programmatic, and physical perspectives. The state and region’s growing innovation economy, and ways that local communities could be engaged, were also major contributing factors.
Our team produced a plan that included three distinct innovation strategies and design interventions that reinforce and bolster the University’s strategic vision, UB2020. Working with stakeholders from across the academy, campus leadership, and external constituencies, we first sought to articulate unique definitions of “innovation” appropriate to each campus. For one campus, innovation centered around STEM-based research and commercialization. For the second, innovation was articulated through the need to translate UB research into neighborhood-based clinical services, that would in turn enhance the quality of life for UB’s adjacent communities. Finally, for UB’s medical school campus, with its large-footprint clinical, academic, and research facilities, we prioritized innovating on engagement between campus and neighbors, in order to foster an activated mixed-use district.
Through this work, the campuses each now have targeted strategies for pursuing innovation that reinforce a collective UB vision. The plan enhances opportunities for research commercialization, while applying research to local real-world solutions and directly connecting UB to local economic development efforts. This framework builds a strong foundation for ongoing collaboration between private industry, the City and region, and the University at Buffalo to spur transformative impact across sectors and scales.
In 2018, U3 Advisors and Sasaki Associates again worked with UB on a separate engagement, this time to develop a student housing master plan for the three campuses. U3 evaluated the financial impact of proposed new projects and advised UB on the potential to engage private developers in public-private-partnership transactions.