The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) plans to use a $3 million grant from DOD’s Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) to help diversity the economies of defense-dependent communities in Mississippi and encourage entrepreneurs to transfer their technology innovations into commercial opportunities.
Under a third initiative, the USM College of Business and the school’s Trent Lott National Center for Excellence in Economic Development & Entrepreneurship will create a defense community specialization for the masters of science in economic development program, reported Southern Miss Now.
“Now, more than ever, national security is on the forefront in everyone’s minds. We will have an opportunity to create new innovations that could provide additional business diversity in Hattiesburg and Mississippi’s Gulf Coast region,” said Chase Kasper, assistant vice president for research, technology transfer & corporate relations at the university.
The defense industry is a major employment sector in Mississippi and includes aerospace, shipbuilding, weapon systems, armored vehicles and other equipment. The largest component is shipbuilding, which accounts for 13,063 jobs and more than $1.3 billion in earnings for the state.
To assist communities coping with cutbacks in defense spending, USM will develop short-term and long-term economic strategies designed to minimize defense industry adjustments through data-driven courses of action.
To encourage technology transfer among small businesses, the university will support the expansion of DOD’s National Security Technology Accelerator. The school believes NSTA initiatives are a unique opportunity to mitigate defense spending reductions through economic diversification and enhanced economic capacity for Mississippi’s struggling economy, according to the story.
“The fact that this platform is being piloted in Mississippi will provide technology developers and producers in the state the ability to showcase their products and capabilities in the early stages of project implementation,” said Robbie Ingram, manager of USM’s Innovation and Commercialization Accelerator and CEO of the Mississippi Enterprise for Technology.
The masters of economic development degree program will be expanded to include an emphasis in defense sector economic diversification; it will include an online option for working professionals and for military personnel seeking to transition into civilian employment.