I was able to collaborate with the Secretary of State by presenting the North Star Initiative. This initiative is focused on developing innovation centers in the Minneapolis ecosystem as durable business assets to the corporate, academic, and entrepreneurial communities. For some time we have been seeing these centers being created in cities across the USA and across the globe in major cities. Some cities already have between 10 – 60 centers in existence and they usually have a area of focus that aligns to major industry clusters in a region. The centers become a major activity hub for innovation and collaboration. While similar in appearance to traditional incubators they are actually much larger in scope and services. They are a nexus where corporations, venture capitalists, and startups all come together supported by experts, mentors, and academics to create a rich ecosystem of resources. While most models are launched though some basic government funding, they are built to be independent business that are in the business of business innovation. At the heart of the model is actually corporate members. They are providing the critical mass of financial investments to make the facilities, labs, services, and events possible. With these assets in place, the ability to attract and facilitate the acceleration and incubation of start-ups is possible and to create a large network of supporting partnerships across universities, research centers, and industry parks to be a part of an overall innovation ecosystem. Start-ups benefit massively from the acceleration and incubation programs supported by all the expertise that exists in these ecosystems. By having created these centers, the corporate sponsors now have access to a massive funnel of new innovation ideas. Though, one shouldn’t be too quite to jump to the conclusion that this is only about corporation to start-up partnerships. Many centers are producing as many corporation to corporate joint patents and innovations. Corporation collaboration skyrockets around these centers and attracts more and more corporations to become members and have dedicated office space and staff within the facilities. Industry parks spring up around the centers housing corporate labs, manufacturing, education and other facilities. In addition, venture capitalists are attracted to the high concentration of maturing innovations in these centers. Many start-ups find connections to venture capitalists and secure funding directly. As these centers thrive, they create a global gravity that has attracted foreign investment and new corporate members. This starts to form international corridors between countries for the two way exchange and commercialization of innovations. Taking a deeper look into the corporate sponsors we see that its not just large size companies that are benefiting. For every major company, there can be thousands of SMB sized business that support that brand and is a critical part of their ecosystem. In many cases new innovations are perfectly suited to the SMB companies vs. the major brand. Also, if a major brand is innovating, it can not only disrupt their competition, it can disrupt their own ecosystem of SMBs supporting them. Having them all collaborating together at these centers helps see the implications of disruptions from the beginning and opens the door to joint investments to share innovations across your own business ecosystem.
Much of the conversation with the SoS centered around the regional economic development planning that would play out with the hosting of the worlds fair. If Minnesota is to invite the world to come visit our state and meet with our industries we would want to have many of these centers in existence and operating successfully to invite the world to come collaborate, innovation, and invest in Minnesota’s industries.
In future posts I’ll dig into the centers models that we have been studying from around the world.
Economic dev galleries: