Innovation Ecosystem Supports
Enhance innovation ecosystem supports, including the provision of:
- Startup incubators and accelerators
- Business support programs
- Smart-city and other research opportunities to enhance public services, products and processes
- Space and support for public and post-secondary education programming to build the talent pipeline
- Multifunctional innovation centers that include collision and joint work spaces
Business Start-up, Recruitment and Innovation Growth
If an Innovation District is the heart of a thriving innovation ecosystem, then turning ideas into successful businesses is the lifeblood of that system. Many supports must be in place including help with shaping potential business ideas, access to venture capital and mentors, help with reducing startup costs and connections to talent. The local ecosystem is growing with supports such as The Company Lab, Launch Chattanooga, The Lamp Post Group, The Urban League, the Chamber of Commerce, UTC, and the Chattanooga Renaissance and Jump Funds, but competition in the innovation economy is keen, and local efforts should reflect this reality.
Collaborative efforts among local partners will focus on the following goals:
- Conduct business start-up, acceleration and incubation programming, and provide ongoing growth support by developing and implementing a common vision and joint strategies for business start-up and growth.
- Promote innovation and entrepreneurship in legacy companies and industries by connecting the strengths and knowledge base of these companies with successful innovation and entrepreneurship programming.
- Recruit out of town companies to the Innovation District to build the local talent base, support the growth of industry clusters, and help create a tipping point for attracting companies to our unique ecosystem.
Innovation Centers and Workspaces
Open for more than two years and occupied by a range of innovation economy serving uses, the Edney Innovation Center’s success indicates there is a need for more such spaces and resources to grow the local innovation economy. The plan calls for evaluating the impact of the Edney and identifying programming needs for additional centers in the district. This will take into account the long time success of The INCubator at the Hamilton County Business Development Center in the North Shore District. For example, perhaps there is a need for one or more centers focused on certain industries such as health care or light manufacturing, or one that is combined with an education and training mission, an early childhood program or makerspace offerings. The goal is to maximize the value of innovation centers in the district as places of collision, flexible and joint workspaces and innovation programming.
Urban Testbed and Research Center
Chattanooga’s digital assets and innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem are increasingly attractive to researchers and to research funding entities such as the National Science Foundation. In 2017, the city was selected into the MetroLab Network, which fosters the application of academic research in solving real community problems. To maximize this potential in the Innovation District, UTC will lead the development of a highly accessible, community oriented advanced testbed that enables industry and academia to prototype and scale services, applications and devices that benefit the city and the world at large. The initial build out of this testbed will be along the ML King Cultural Corridor.
Connect Students to Innovation Ecosystem Opportunities
An innovation ecosystem cannot thrive without access to talent. At the same time, traditional post-secondary education is challenged to keep up with the rapidly changing needs of technology based jobs. It is important to create a strong talent pipeline that begins with students at the earliest level possible and connects them to education opportunities in new ways in the Innovation District. Chattanooga cannot attract enough talent from out of town to fuel the local innovation economy, nor would that be desirable. Every local student should have a pathway to a good job. The jobs of tomorrow must be held by the students of today and district stakeholders are exploring how to integrate students into the economy and attract them as the talent base for growing companies.