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The roles that innovation and research play in the economic vitality of a region will be the topic of a panel discussion Friday among seven of the most prominent local college and university presidents and top economic development officials.

With the strategic plan developed by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council placing a high priority on tapping into the resources at local colleges and universities – along with its pool of graduates – as a way to spur new businesses and economic growth locally, the region’s academic institutions are being counted on to play a bigger role in the local economy than ever before.

The panelists include: Howard Cohen, interim president of Buffalo State College; Charles Edmondson, the president of Alfred University; Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, president and chief executive officer of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership; Virginia Schaefer Horvath, president of Fredonia State College; Jack Quinn, president of Erie Community College; Satish K. Tripathi, president of the University at Buffalo; and Howard Zemsky, who shares co-chairman duties of the regional development council with Tripathi.

Authors Bruce Johnstone, a former State University of New York chancellor, and Jason Lane, the deputy director of research for the Rockefeller Institute of Government, also will discuss their new book, “Universities and Colleges as Economic Drivers.”

The panel will run from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday at the UB Clinical and Translational Research Center, 875 Ellicott St. (5th floor), in Buffalo.