On Friday, the Institute for Emerging Issues announced the winners of a new initiative aimed at growing innovation hubs in cities across North Carolina. But, don’t expect to see the usual suspects on the list of participants. One of the qualifications for cities interested in applying was a location outside of the Triangle or Charlotte, which is where more than two-thirds of all high tech employment in the state is currently located. As a result, Asheville, Greensboro, Pembroke, Wilmington and Wilson have all been announced as the inaugural class of Innovation NC.
The Research Triangle Foundation of NC has chosen to partner and support this program because of its goal to lift up areas of our state that are striving to diversify their economies. Specifically, InnovateNC will work to grow the economies of cities across the state that have shown promise. The idea was driven by the new model of innovation, which has seen an expansion of the traditional ecosystem of progressive work environments. Think of it kind of like the hub and spoke model: new ideas thrive in areas where there is a core cluster of anchor institutions – like a university – and cutting-edge companies that are surrounded by a wider innovation-sustaining ecosystem. (The Brookings Institution labeled RTP as one of these types of new innovation economies in 2014.) The five cities selected were identified to be areas that contained the basic principles behind this idea.
In total, 18 cities from all across North Carolina applied to the two-year program. Backed by a diverse group of partners, InnovateNC has structured the program in a way that will allow each of the selected communities to collaborate and develop new practices through the following:
- An intensive two-year planning process.
- Cross-city convenings to focus on learning and building relationships. These will take place at The Frontier and the IEI Commons.
- Decision making based on data using tools that will be developing through a collaboration with RTI International and The NC Board of Science, Technology & Innovation.
- Support of innovative policy making from municipal and state governments through a partnership with the Duke University Sanford School of Public policy.
- Storytelling initiatives that will focus on sharing the experiences of each participating city in real time, so other areas across the state are able to learn from the collaborative process.
- Supplemental programming such as innovation-related conferences, forums and cross-city visits and tours.
To get a full sense of the program, its goals and processes, check out the following resources:
InnovateNC RFP – This is a great explainer on how the program will work.
Innovate NC on NC Now – Anita Brown-Graham, IEI Director and John Hardin, Executive Director of the NC Office of Science, Technology & Innovation discuss the project on UNC-TV.
#InnovateNC – See what others are saying about the program.
9.4 Press Release – Learn more about each city.