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UWF OEDE associate director Dr. Donovan Chau selected to lead Innovation Coast

Innovation Coast, an alliance of technology and knowledge-based companies in Northwest Florida, has named Dr. Donovan Chau, associate director of the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement, its new executive director.

The move is intended to strengthen the ties between the business community and academia, said Jim McClellan, chair of Innovation Coast’s board of directors.

“Having the University of West Florida as our partner is mission critical for Innovation Coast,” said McClellan, who also works as director of marketing for Gulf Breeze tech firm AppRiver. “We must have the public institutions and private companies working hand in hand to build a strong workforce, attract capital investment and create new jobs within the technology and knowledge-based sector.”

In his new role with Innovation Coast, Chau will promote a culture of mutual success through partnership and information-sharing among companies in the Northwest Florida technology and knowledge-based sectors. Chau also will work to raise public awareness of Innovation Coast activities and achievements, which include the inaugural Innovation Awards business pitch competition held in November.

“With strong board leadership, Innovation Coast intends to expand its membership base, cultivate its key partnerships and attract quality companies for its second annual business pitch competition, the Innovation Awards,” Chau said. “There is much to be done, and there’s a lot of opinion on how to do these things. I will do my utmost to guide Innovation Coast in a prudent direction as it matures organizationally.”

Chau has served with UWF OEDE since August 2014. He first entered academia in 2007, when he joined California State University, San Bernardino as an assistant professor of political science. He was later promoted to associate professor.

From 2004 to 2005, Chau worked as a staff member for the Select Committee on Homeland Security in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington.

Chau earned a bachelor’s degree in literature and government from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. He has a master’s degree in defense and strategic studies from Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri and a doctorate in politics and international relations from the University of Reading in the U.K.

UWF also provides staff and administrative services to Innovation Coast and holds two seats on the organization’s board of directors. Dr. Rick Harper, assistant vice president for economic development at UWF and director of the Studer Institute, and Dr. Ed Ranelli, dean emeritus of the UWF College of Business, currently occupy those seats.