Igniting Economic Impact for Texas, U.S.

Envision an epicenter of engineering education — a place that fosters interdisciplinary research, innovation and collaboration at The University of Texas at Austin.

Waves of innovation illustration

Envision an epicenter of engineering education — a place that fosters interdisciplinary research, innovation and collaboration at The University of Texas at Austin.

Now envision the Engineering Education and Research Center (EERC); the first step and highest priority in the Cockrell School of Engineering's Master Facility Plan.

In a recent economic analysis from The Perryman Group, a Waco-based economic and financial analysis firm, it was shown that the education and research conducted in the EERC will have enormous impacts on the state and nation.

"An investment in higher education pays dividends for many years," said Ray Perryman, author of the report. "A student who gains skills to be a more productive worker typically utilizes those skills over the course of many years. Similarly, a company locating to the state due to the availability of skilled workers or intellectual capital leads to ongoing economic gains."

Susan Davenport, senior vice president of global technology strategies at the Austin Chamber of Commerce, echoed the importance of higher education as it relates to human capital.

"The Chamber's tagline for years has been about human capital, and a lot of that is looking toward the universities, and UT Austin is clearly our flagship R&D university," she said. "It's vitally critical to our economy from a talent development standpoint … as well as the research opportunities that the university has specific to the engineering school. It dovetails with our economy."

According to Perryman, by 2016 — the year substantial gains from the EERC are expected — the economic activity generated as a result of the EERC will produce nearly $1.5 billion in new economic activity in the U.S. and more than 4,000 new jobs in Texas.

"Higher education generates economic benefits through several channels," Perryman said. "Enhancing the programs at the Cockrell School has the potential to improve the state's competitiveness for top students, faculty and research projects."

The enhancement of programs, however, is dependent on the evolution of the school's facilities. As part of the Master Facility Plan, the school plans to add five buildings and renovate three existing buildings on the university's main campus. A new building also is planned for the J. J. Pickle Research Center. The first phase will be the construction of the 420,000-gross-square-foot EERC.

"The intellectual mixing of ideas, people and laboratories at the boundaries of disciplines is where the most intriguing and productive research and experiences are found," said Cockrell School Dean Gregory Fenves.

According to the Perryman report, the current yearly graduating class at the Cockrell School (more than 1,000), and research generated by these graduates, is associated with $2.5 billion in annual spending and 10,240 jobs at the national level. In 2016 — when the benefits of the EERC have been recognized — 11,084 jobs and $2.74 billion in total yearly spending nationwide will be attributed to the Cockrell School.

"The EERC will provide a state-of-the-art learning environment where students and faculty can imagine, design and implement innovative solutions to global issues and world problems," said university President William Powers Jr.