“It’s the missing link in the local economy of the region, how to connect the universities to the local economies,” Massey said of the Cumberland Center. The idea originated in a conversation between Massey and Eaton concerning how Cumberland could play a greater role not only in the economic development of Wilson County and others in Middle Tennessee, but also how it could become a center for universities in the region to share research, technology and information.
“Dr. Eaton brings an expertise in technological transfer and the role universities can play in economic development,” Massey said.
Not only will the Cumberland Center give universities a greater impact on the regional economy, Massey said they hope to attract businesses to the region as a whole in order to help Middle Tennessee become a global marketplace.
“The idea is to build our economy through the talents of our own people like we used to do,” Massey said, referring to the Cumberland Center’s role in helping local businesses find new opportunities.
When the Cumberland Center gets up and running this year, Massey said the first thing they will do is compile information and sift through data to find target areas in business that have the most potential and the most need.
With combined resources of multiple universities, businesses can take advantage of research, data and technology that would have been out of reach before such a regional cooperation.
Massey said the Cumberland Center could help local businesses, small and large, to find new markets that they otherwise would not have been able to access. A business in Lebanon for instance, Massey said, could find a global marketplace through cooperation with the Cumberland Center.
“We want to work extremely collaboratively with existing activities to strengthen the economy,” Massey said. In addition to strengthening the economy through cooperation with local businesses, Massey said the Cumberland Center will bring together a multitude of regional universities to spur research and innovation.
“Middle Tennessee is distinctively positioned to take on a major national and global leadership in innovation because there are so many great universities in this area,” he said.
One of the first goals of the Center is to create an inventory of research and innovation resources from regional universities. Some of the major research capacities local universities have are pharmaceutical, biological and public research.
Massey said by taking stock in these capacities and connecting many universities through the Center, each university will have a greater access to materials and resources to help advance their own capacity for research and innovation.
“It (the Cumberland Center) has a unique capacity to become a major innovation hub in the nation,” Massey said.
All of the information compiled through the inventory process will be accessible through a “Cumberland Portal.” Massey said the Portal will be a database of regional academic research, development, intellectual properties and other resources. The Center will also have a Portal for the general public to access information and contact the Cumberland Center’s leaders to take part in regional cooperation and growth with their own unique ideas. Citizens can also take advantage of the Center’s resources to create new businesses or new technology and innovations.
Massey said he and others at Cumberland are working hard to hammer out the Center’s full scope of work and which universities will participate. Some of the universities that are among the discussion to cooperate are Vanderbilt, Tennessee State, Belmont, Lipscomb, Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee State and many more.
“It’s going to be geographically focused but not geographically limited,” Massey said.
In the future, Massey indicated the Cumberland Center could not only bring cooperation and information together among Middle Tennessee universities, but also with those in nearby states that are within reach. “We’re still exploring that,” Massey said of contacting universities to take part in the Center’s activities. “We’re considering including Western Kentucky University and others.”
The Cumberland Center is an unincorporated nonprofit entity that will operate from the Cumberland School of Education and Public Service. Massey is a professor of Leadership in the school and is no stranger to creating regional mindsets and bringing universities together.
“I’ve worked in that field for the last 10 years,” Massey said, pointing to his experience with Purdue University, Harvard University and the University of California at Davis.
Although the Center is operating through Cumberland’s existing academic programs, Massey said they are still looking for administrative offices, and that the Center will not be a bricks-and-mortar entity.
In terms of fund raising, Massey said they haven’t put together a definitive plan, but that several companies and philanthropists have expressed desire to contribute and that they will reach out to more businesses and corporations later in the year to get the Center on its feet.
Massey was optimistic the Center could hit the ground running this year and begin working toward its goals of taking stock in everything Middle Tennessee has to offer a national and global community while making the region a nucleus for innovation and strengthening its economy.
Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.