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Generating the next BIG IDEAS for WVU

In October 2021, WVU hosted its first-ever Academic Innovation Summit to generate novel solutions to challenges facing rural Appalachia.

Why a Summit?

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Organized by the Office of the Provost in partnership with WVU Health Sciences and the WVU Research Office, the Academic Innovation Summit brought together nearly 60 University and community members for a two-day, hackathon-style event. Teams were presented with specific challenges facing rural Appalachia and asked to develop and pitch actionable and impactful programs to a panel of reviewers.

Creating Sustainable Rural Communities

Leaders and experts from across the University served as Challenge Ambassadors to present specific challenge statements for identified topics related to rural communities. Teams were assigned to a topic and charged with developing novel solutions leading to new in-demand curricula, cutting-edge research and impactful outreach. Facilitators from the WVU ADVANCE Center guided teams through the ideation-to-pitch process.


The Future of Addiction and Recovery

West Virginia has consistently led the nation in the rates of overdose deaths – but can also be a leading source for solutions.

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The Future of Aging

West Virginia's seniors face significant challenges, but the Mountain State can become a leader in research, practice and community-building focused on healthy aging.

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The Future of the West Virginia Economy

Emerging "future-of-work" initiatives are complex but full of opportunities, and West Virginia can leverage its outdoor assets to thrive in this modern economic landscape.

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The Future of Energy and Sustainability

Once economic drivers for the state, fossil and chemical energy industries have faced significant decline. West Virginia can adapt by developing new energy sources and diversifying its economy.

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The Future of Education — K-12

Facing a growing teacher shortage, West Virginia must innovate and transform its approach to K-12 education to ensure students have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

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The Future of Education — Higher Education

The traditional college model is at a crossroads - and West Virginia University must restate the value of an in-person college experience and demonstrate its value to the citizens of the state.

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The Results and Funding

A panel of University and outside experts heard the teams’ pitches and selected the top proposals that they believed showed the most promise and potential impact. They allocated more than $400,000 to three projects. Learn more about the review panel.

smartAg WV meeting

SmartAg WV

The “SmartAg WV” will use data and automation to improve the efficiency and capacity of small-scale farming in West Virginia and the related artisan food production industry.

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Comm Eng Collaborative meeting

Community Engagement Collaborative

The “Community Engagement Collaborative” will provide mini-grants to support students who will develop and deploy community engagement projects that will provide them with real-world experience and positively impact local communities.

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Visiting Neighbors Program meeting

Visiting Neighbor Program

The “Visiting Neighbor Program” will train senior citizens in sample communities to “visit” elderly neighbors to provide companionship, educate seniors on healthy lifestyle choices, and connect them to helpful resources in the community and online.

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Funding for the event and the awards was provided through a variety of sources, including WVU Health Sciences, the West Virginia Department of Education, the Provost’s Foundation funds, and private donors, including Nathalie and Wes Bush, who sponsored the event itself.

Panel members ultimately decided to allocate an additional $70,000 to provide planning grants of up to $10,000 to each of the seven remaining teams.

What’s Next?

  1. To receive funding, each group will be required to submit a full proposal, including a comprehensive budget and confirmed list of team members. They will receive their funding in two installments and will need to demonstrate several milestones to receive the second installment.
  2. To generate additional ideas, the Provost’s Office will announce an innovation mini-grants program, open to the entire University community, in early 2022.