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Cumberland Center: New University-Business alliance plans to foster 'innovation hubs' in Mid-TN and State
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Updated 2:43 p.m. re financial contributions.-Ed.

Local university and business leaders are joining forces in a pro-innovation initiative for Middle Tennessee, supported by the Cumberland Center at Cumberland University, with funding from both the university and philanthropists Steve and Judy Turner.

Scott Massey, Ph.D.

In order to improve the region's global competitiveness, the Cumberland alliance-in-formation aims to remedy a "missing link" by connecting universities, businesses and research laboratories in the Mid-South. Doing that should "advance innovation and prosperity" in Middle Tennessee and statewide, according to materials provided by the Center's founding director, Scott T. Massey, Ph.D., in response to a VNC inquiry.

The Turners' contribution in partnership with the university represents "core funding" for the Center's first three years, Massey confirmed. Massey said he is not authorized to disclose amounts donated by the Turners and the university for the program. The Turners have previously supported numerous community organizations, including the Vanderbilt Center for Nashville Studies (VCNS), which addresses socio-economic and civic issues.

Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos and Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan have expressed support for the work of the alliance, Massey confirmed, although he declined at this time to identify for publication others who have committed to support the initiative, explaining that outreach and discussions continue with several institutions.

Other likely participants, according to sources, include Ron Samuels, immediate past chairman of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and president of Avenue Bank; Tennessee State University; Belmont University; Lipscomb University; Middle Tennessee State University; and, Austin Peay State University, among others. Participants may be drawn from elsewhere in the mid-South, particularly from nearby southern Kentucky; and, programs modeled in Middle Tennessee may be replicated elsewhere in the state.

The Center's scope of action for 2011 and beyond includes "Cumberland Agenda," a forum for collaborative action by universities' CEOs and businesses allied with them through the forum. The Agenda is to be convened in collaboration with Tennessee Technology Development Corporation (TTDC), according to materials Massey provided.

Earlier efforts will also include a "Cumberland Portal" database containing regional academic, research, development, intellectual property and patents, and other expertise and resources; and, probably beginning in 2012, "concierge enterprise services" through which Center "relationship managers" will cultivate opportunities for "translational research" and commercialization transactions that are likely to produce a wide range of jobs and attract further capital investment, according to Center materials and conversations with Massey and others.

The unincorporated nonprofit Center operates within Cumberland University's School of Education and Public Service, where Massey is a professor of leadership, as well as Center director. Cumberland University is in Lebanon, 35 miles east of Nashville.

Massey's prior work in technology-driven economic development and related fields has included services to Purdue University, the University of California at Davis, the Council on Competitiveness and other institutions and agencies, according to materials online. Much of that work was performed through the Indianapolis-based Meridian Institute, a consultancy serving nonprofit organizations.

Massey also co-authored Renewing American Culture: The Pursuit of Happiness (M&M Scrivener, 2006), which calls, among other things, for Americans to reinvent relationships among academe, business, government and nonprofit institutions, in the interest of socioeconomic renewal amid a global economy. The book addresses dynamics of globalization, smart technologies and the expansion of knowledge, in relationship to U.S. citizens' core values and the humanities.

Massey's years in Nashville included a high-profile education collaboration with the late conductor Leonard Bernstein and the Bernstein Education through the Arts Fund, which led to founding the Leonard Bernstein Center for education, which once maintained a presence in Nashville.

Massey earned his doctorate at Vanderbilt University, "with a focus on cybernetics and the philosophy of science and logic," according to his Cumberland profile. VNC

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Tags: Austin Peay State University, Belmont University, commercialization, Cumberland Center, Cumberland University, economic development, innovation, Judy Turner, Lipscomb University, Middle Tennessee State University, philanthropy, research and development, Scott Massey, Steve Turner, technology transfer, Tennessee State University, Vanderbilt University, venture capital, Western Kentucky University

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