Synapse Summit, the premier event that unites Florida’s brightest leaders within the innovation economy, presented some of the University of South Florida’s greatest minds and collaborators. One of the first sessions featured USF’s growing partnership with Jabil (NYSE: JBL), a Fortune 150 industrial technology company headquartered in St. Petersburg.
USF President Steve Currall hosted an engaging virtual conversation with Jabil CEO and USF alum Mark Mondello during the session titled, “Business Success and Innovation through Boundary-Breaking Collaboration.” They discussed the shared challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and how corporate and academic continuity were maintained by utilizing cutting-edge information technology (IT). USF rapidly transitioned courses online and developed new innovations, such as 3D printed nasal swabs. Jabil utilized AR/VR technologies to problem-solve on factory floors across the world and addressed worker safety concerns by manufacturing its own protective face masks.
Currall and Mondello expressed how innovation is fostered by permeability across organizational boundaries, industries, higher education and the business community, emphasizing the significance of a global economy. Currall has spent decades studying how research universities can work more productively with industry to bring new inventions and ideas to market and is the lead author of the book, “Organized Innovation: A Blueprint for Renewing America's Prosperity.”
USF and Jabil have worked closely on a number of innovative projects, utilizing expertise in data analytics, machine learning and supply chain management. In 2019, USF announced a $1 million partnership with Jabil to establish the USF Jabil Innovation Institute, catalyzing new efforts in research and community engagement with the College of Engineering and Muma College of Business, and enhancing student success by providing experiential learning opportunities.
“It primes the pump for us to develop great talent out of the university and create a talent pipeline in terms of when we recruit individuals from the university, they know the touch and feel of Jabil,” Mondello said during the session. “They hit the ground running because they’ve worked with us hand-in-hand and they understand our purpose and what we’re up to. They have great familiarity with the company before they ever formally accept the job, and they understand the needs and wants and expectations. All of that results in an absolutely wonderful pipeline of incredible talent that we work together with the university.”
“That benefits the university so much because our students are getting exposure to a great innovative company like Jabil and they feel like they have the prospects of possible employment there as well,” Currall responded. “It’s part of the magnetic pull of the university if prospective students know they could get exposure to Jabil and earn a job and that would be a great career platform. In addition to the workforce development aspect of it, there’s the innovation side and the ability to think and develop new products that Jabil may be able to bring to market and that enhances the prosperity of the company, ability to hire and be an engine of regional economic development in the Tampa Bay area.”
Jabil employs 260,000 people in 30 countries, serving business sectors such as healthcare, industrial and transportation. USF also has a broad global reach, with 5,000 international students representing 145 countries. It’s ranked in the top 10 by the U.S. State Department for producing Fulbright scholars, providing faculty members the opportunity to travel abroad and incorporate their experience into the classroom.
In partnership with Jabil and the Tampa Bay Lightning, USF recently announced it will offer a certificate program to educate business and community leaders on how they can create a more diverse workplace, address equity issues and foster inclusivity. More than 100,000 people have registered to attend the free, seven-week program, which begins March 24. Mondello pointed out how diversity and inclusion efforts across Jabil have initiated stronger ideas and solutions, as well as more mutual respect. The certificate program is one of several initiatives launched at USF to help dismantle systemic racism and promote racial equity.
USF experts participated in additional sessions throughout the Synapse Summit. “Discover: USF’S Innovation Enterprise” featured Allison Madden, director of operations, USF Research Foundation, Elizabeth Nelson, program director, Florida High Tech Corridor, Van Barnes, licensing associate and Morgan Holmes, director of USF Corporate Partnerships. “The Nexus of Space and Cyber: Space Florida & Cyber Florida” featured Mike McConnell, executive director of Cyber Florida, which is hosted at the University of South Florida.