WHAT IS THE WYOMING INNOVATION PARTNERSHIP (WIP)?
The Wyoming Innovation Partnership (WIP) was created at the request of Governor Gordon in 2021 to modernize and focus Wyoming’s efforts to develop a resilient workforce and economy. The effort aims to better align Wyoming’s economic development agenda by increasing collaborations between state entities and ultimately local partners. The partnership involves the University of Wyoming, the state’s community colleges, Wyoming Business Council, and Department of Workforce Services with an emphasis on developing innovative solutions that support and enhance Wyoming’s economy, workforce, and sources of revenue.
WIP intends to build on and complement existing state efforts in support of Wyoming’s economic development strategy (e.g., Wyoming's Tomorrow, Learn to Earn, Wyoming Works, WY Next Gen Sector Partnerships, Workforce Development Council, Higher Educational Attainment Exec Council and others), and recognizes the need for healthy and sustainably funded institutions to do this work.
WHAT ARE THE WIP'S KEY OBJECTIVES?
WIP objectives will offer graduates more opportunities to stay in or return to Wyoming as a result of a developed ecosystem that drives innovation, skills development, and introductions to new jobs across a diversified industry portfolio.
The purpose of WIP is to improve Wyoming’s economic prosperity through the coordinated efforts that link community goals and strengths to the state’s strategy for economic development and diversification. WIP aims to grow the economy through entrepreneurship, research, computing education, and workforce development by leveraging the collaborative ability of higher education to serve as the framework for connecting industry and governmental partners to spark innovation, economic growth, and prosperity. WIP’s multi-year blueprint includes five broad areas:
Strategically develop the academic and skill development pathways that will advance the state, and its workforce, through collaboration and efficient use of state-wide resources;
Support and train entrepreneurs, facilitate new business starts, and support small business retention, succession and expansion;
Partner with economic development organizations to recruit, expand, and relocate new businesses to Wyoming;
Provide the support infrastructure to allow for research to develop Wyoming-based commodities; and
Develop business partnerships and attract private funding (matching programs, sponsored research, apprenticeships, internships, etc.).
HOW IS THE WIP ORGANIZED?
The WIP is governed by the Presidents’ Steering Group (PSG). The PSG is composed of the presidents of the nine public institutions of higher education, as well as representatives from the Governor’s Office and the Community College Commission, and includes consultation from the CEO of the Wyoming Business Council and the Director of the Department of Workforce Services. The PSG is co-chaired by three individuals – the president of the University of Wyoming, the president of the Wyoming Community College President’s Council, and a Governor’s office representative. The creation of a position in the Governor’s office has been proposed in 2022 to coordinate the day-to-day activities of the WIP.
HOW WILL THE WIP MEASURE SUCCESS?
New Business Starts – The successful launch of new Wyoming-based businesses as a direct or indirect outcome of WIP efforts. New jobs added to Wyoming’s economy as a result of WIP efforts either through new business starts, the expansion of existing businesses, or the recruitment of new businesses to the state.
Average Wage Increases – The increase in average/median wages associated with graduates of WIP programs and represented in core and new industry sectors aligned with the State’s economic development strategy.
Increased Research Activity – Applied research activity aligned with the state’s economic development strategy with a focus on increasing investment, patents generated, intellectual property documented, and market commercialization.
Increased Enrollment and Graduate Retention – The number of individuals who participate in WIP associated programming and/or activities and the rate at which those who earn postsecondary credentials from WIP institutions are retained in Wyoming in jobs.
TIMEFRAMES AND PHASING
Although coordinated efforts between the community colleges and the University of Wyoming are expected to continue well into the future for the betterment of the State, the WIP initiative is organized around three phases:
Phase 1 (Now - June 2023) – Phase 1 of the WIP initiative is focused primarily on infrastructure support, and early, immediate focus on measured activities intended to launch the WIP’s collaborative, programmatic efforts.
Phase 2 (July 2023 – June 2024) – Phase 2 will be a larger effort focused on significant workforce development programming, efforts that make it easier for the WIP institutions to collaborate and work together, and large-scale collaborative efforts that improve institutional productivity and outcomes.
Phase 3 (July 2024 - Beyond) – Phase 3 of the WIP initiative is yet to be fully defined but will likely align the work of the WIP institutions with longer-term, transformational strategies to help Wyoming and our communities thrive long-term.
INITIAL INVESTMENTS AND SUSTAINABILITY PLANNING
The WIP acknowledges Phase 1 and 2 funding are time-limited and not a source of on-going funding for programmatic activities. Concurrent with using ARP “seed funding” to jump start these programs, WIP is exploring alternative funding sources as part of its sustainability planning.