Auburn University DesignSeed project receives 2010 Innovator Award

AUBURN – Auburn University’s DesignSeed program was recently recognized with a 2010 Innovator Award by Southern Growth Policies Board, a regional economic development think tank. DesignSeed creates businesses in rural and distressed areas of Alabama based on innovative product designs created by Auburn’s industrial design students. The 2010 Innovator Awards were chosen from creative initiatives designed to help communities recover from the recession.

DesignSeed is a collaboration of Auburn University’s Office of University Outreach, Technical Assistance Center, or ATAC, and industrial design program. The first step in the DesignSeed process is seek input from community leaders, stakeholders, citizens and workers to identify natural resources and community assets around which to build business ideas. The next step is to provide assistance in identifying and supporting entrepreneurs who can launch the resulting products.

At a presentation earlier this month, the award for DesignSeed was accepted by Auburn assistant vice president for University Outreach, Royrickers Cook, ATAC management scientist David Mixson, and Mark Smith, director of DesignSeed’s Enterprise Creation Lab. The awards were presented at Southern Growth’s Chairman’s Conference, June 7-8, in Lexington, Kentucky.

“DesignSeed is a great example of Auburn’s comprehensive interdisciplinary engagement with the community working together to stimulate sustainable economic development,” said Cook. “I’m excited that the program has been recognized by such an influential group as Southern Growth Policies Board.”

Smith, an Auburn alumnus, developed the concept while a graduate student with Tsai Lu Liu, assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Graphic Design. A grant from University Outreach helped bring the DesignSeed concept into operation.

Innovator Awards are presented annually to one organization in each of Southern Growth’s 13 member states in recognition of initiatives that are improving economic opportunities and quality of life in the region.

Southern Growth Policies Board serves Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Its mission is to help improve the economy and quality of life in the South through dialogue and collaboration among a cross-section of the region’s policy and program leaders. Its research focuses on the major drivers of economic prosperity: innovation and technology, globalization, workforce development and community development.

Contact: Royrickers Cook, (334) 844-5700 (, or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (