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Three Idaho universities form Innovation Research Alliance

Boise State University, Idaho State University and University of Idaho have partnered to form a regional technology and innovation alliance to foster innovation-led economic growth in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Through the Mountains and Plains University Innovation Alliance, research-focused colleges and universities in the five-state region will collaborate to leverage existing research, education and training programs to boost their collective ability to attract and support the expansion of high-tech innovation and industry in the region. The Alliance will also partner with tribal nations, state governments and industry leadership to develop and enact a regional agenda to ensure the five-state region will play a central role building the technologies of the next century. All alliance members are Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)/IDeA jurisdictions. Through collaboration with alliance members, Idaho institutions will be eligible to compete for specific EPSCoR funds from federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, and Department of Energy.

“Boise State University’s research profile and innovative mindset are powerful catalysts for economic growth. Collaborating with regional higher education partners and combining our strengths with theirs represents a big win for Idaho,” said Dr. Marlene Tromp, Boise State University president.

Traditionally, the U.S. innovation economy has been focused in large urban areas where there is a high concentration of tech workers. However, today’s economy has enabled broad shifts in how and where people work. This shift has brought a wave of highly skilled workers to the five-state region due in part to the availability of additional economic opportunities, an abundance of outdoor pursuits, and a high quality of life.

“This regional alliance opens up additional doors for ISU researchers and students as we collaborate in real-world problem solving,” said Martin Blair, Idaho State University Vice President for Research. “ISU‘s expertise, combined with that of our regional partners, will be put to use in solving problems unique to our part of the country.

At the national level, policy leaders have also recognized the importance of building a more diverse economy by providing high-tech and innovation-based investments in states with more rural and dispersed populations. The Mountains and Plains Innovation Alliance seeks to capitalize on these shifts to expand economic development and better attract federal research grants and other large-scale funding sources.

“Our researchers are eager to be part of this research collaboration. This innovation alliance will be critical to collaboratively address pressing issues shared across member states,” said Christopher Nomura, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at University of Idaho. “The diverse perspectives offered in this alliance will be invaluable to shaping a robust economy for a fast-changing Idaho.”

Tomorrow’s problems also demand solutions that better integrate perspectives from different cultures. As home to half of the nation’s tribal colleges, a significant focus of the Alliance is encouraging innovation-focused investments in traditionally underserved peoples and places. By focusing on expanded partnerships with tribal colleges and nations, the Mountains and Plains University Innovation Alliance can inform and support innovative solutions to critically important issues that cross boundaries and cultures.

To date, members of the Alliance have already connected researchers across the region to explore opportunities in autonomous systems, advanced materials science, quantum computing, forest and rangeland management, cybersecurity, predictive and precision agriculture, and other fields. Moving forward, Alliance members plan to engage tribal, state government, and industry association leadership in a broader conversation to identify shared needs and focus areas for the region’s emerging high technology economy.

Mountains and Plains University Innovation Alliance members

Mountains and Plains University Innovation Alliance members are located in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.


  • Boise State University
  • Idaho State University
  • The University of Idaho


  • Montana State University
  • Montana Technological University
  • The University of Montana

North Dakota

  • North Dakota State University
  • The University of North Dakota

South Dakota

  • Dakota State University
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
  • South Dakota State University
  • University of South Dakota


The University of Wyoming