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Blog Category: Julie Kirk

Understanding and Measuring Innovation Ecosystems at the Global Innovation Summit

Understanding and Measuring Innovation Ecosystems at the Global Innovation Summit

Guest blog post by Tom Guevara, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairsl, U.S. Economic Development Administration 

There’s a lot of talk these days about “innovation ecosystems,” but what is an innovation ecosystem? What does it mean? Think about the ultimate ecosystem: earth. When we refer to the earth’s ecosystem, we are talking about the interconnectivity of animal, plant, and elements that sustain life. Well, an innovation ecosystem is the same idea. It’s everything in the environment, including and especially culture, that work together to foster and sustain innovation. How we create those ecosystems is at the core of the Global Innovation Summit, taking place this week in San Jose, California. 

The Global Innovation Summit is an opportunity for entrepreneurs, innovators and those that support them from 50+ countries to come together to build solutions, apply new tools to accelerate innovation, and learn from one another. There are three central questions the summit seeks to answer: 

  • How do we build entrepreneurial ecosystems anywhere? 
  • How do we catalyze innovation across companies, cities and countries sustainably?
  • How do we accelerate entrepreneurship, technology and impact at scale? 

These are all questions that the U.S. Economic Development Administration grapples with every day. I am thrilled, therefore, to be participating and learning with over 500 innovators at the Summit, and to explore some of these issues in the two sessions I was asked to moderate: Design of Startup Ecosystems and Measuring, Understanding, and Driving Innovation Culture. 

What goes in to creating an innovation ecosystem? How do you create culture? Can you create a culture? Our discussion will examine several case studies in an attempt to answer these questions. I will be talking to Prafull Anubhai from Ahmedabad University in India about how he helped foster a culture of innovation through VentureStudio, and Isabel Alvarez-Rodriguez from the Inter-American Development Bank, who will discuss how they have used innovation to address the development challenges in Latin America. 

I will be joined by Julie Kirk, the Director of EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for my second session on measuring, understanding, and driving innovation culture. The session is jointly sponsored by Commerce, EDA, and T2 Venture Creation and will include Henry Doss and Alistair Brett the Chief Strategy Officer and International Technology Commercialization Advisor, respectively, for T2 Venture Creation. Julie will bring her experiences as an entrepreneur to bear on the conversation, highlighting her successes. The four of us will tackle the complex undertaking of building a strong culture of innovation and probably challenge a few misconceptions about how to go about designing and innovation ecosystem within an organization. 

I look forward to engaging discussions, thought-provoking debates, and collaborative opportunities during the Summit that will help us create a more innovative culture, economy, and world.

Innovation Support is in Demand

Julie Kirk, Director, Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

By Julie Kirk, Director, Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship 

What do you get when you take a $15 million Regional Innovation Strategies program and add 254 applicants requesting more than $100 million in support? You get a very busy Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and compelling evidence that this program is crucial.

The Regional Innovation Strategies program was launched in September 2014 to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. Under this program, EDA solicited applications for three separate funding opportunities, including: the i6 Challenge, Science and Research Park Development grants, and cluster grants to support the development of Seed Capital Funds: 

  • i6 Challenge: The i6 Challenge, now in its forth iteration, is focused on accelerating the commercialization of technology. The 2014 i6 was broadened from the three previous challenges to include scaling of existing centers or programs and funding for later-stage Commercialization Centers.
  • Science/Research Parks: This new program provides funding for feasibility and planning of new or expanded Science/Research parks or renovation of existing facilities.
  • Cluster Grants for Seed Funds: Also new this year, this program provides funding for technical assistance to support feasibility, planning, formation, or launch of cluster-based seed capital funds that invest in growth-oriented, innovation-based start-up companies. Ultimately, the goal is to foster job creation. 

EDA is committed to helping foster connected, innovation-centric economic sectors which support commercialization and entrepreneurship. Working with regions across the country to develop regional innovation strategies, including regional innovation clusters, is also one of the Commerce Department’s strategic goals, and a keystone of the Secretary’s commitment to building globally competitive regions.  

This effort is also in line with the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda” priority to strengthen operational excellence: providing better services, solutions, and outcomes to better serve the American people. The overwhelming response by the application’s closing date on November 3 demonstrates that communities recognize the benefits of a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem and could benefit from the kind of support offered by the Regional Innovation Strategies program.