Innovation Hubs: Where Innovation Lives

An $80-billion program proposed by President Biden is aiming to spur sustainable growth by supporting the establishment of innovation centers in regions hampered by underinvestment.


https://businessfacilities.com/2021/10/innovation-hubs-where-innovation-lives/
An $80-billion program proposed by President Biden is aiming to spur sustainable growth by supporting the establishment of innovation centers in regions hampered by underinvestment.
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Innovation Hubs: Where Innovation Lives

An $80-billion program proposed by President Biden is aiming to spur sustainable growth by supporting the establishment of innovation centers in regions hampered by underinvestment.

Innovation Hubs: Where Innovation Lives

By the BF Staff
From the September/October 2021 Issue

An $80-billion program proposed by President Biden is aiming to spur sustainable growth by supporting the establishment of innovation centers in regions hampered by underinvestment.

The Global Institute on Innovation Districts recently launched its 2021 agenda to advance strategies that support geographies uniquely positioned to drive new waves of innovation, inclusive and sustainable growth. At the top of the list are Innovation Districts connecting businesses, academia, startups and innovation intermediaries in clusters centered in mixed-use, walkable communities.

The non-profit research organization’s report, entitled Harnessing Innovation Districts to Build Back Better, states: “Governments, philanthropic organizations and financial institutions increasingly view 2021 as a policy pivot. It marks a shift away from short-term crisis responses to now addressing long-term structural challenges that have only worsened during the pandemic.”

The Biden Administration has proposed up to $80 billion worth of investment in “innovation centers” to be located in regions that have historically been hampered by underinvestment but that nonetheless remain powerful centers for R&D.

“Place-based investments in R&D and upskilling would significantly boost the growth of innovation ecosystems that have emerged around specific R&D universities and medical institutions,” the report states. “The ambitious legislation under consideration in the United States exemplifies the kind of bold course correction needed to drive new waves of innovation and inclusive growth. Innovation districts, because of their concentration of assets, have a powerful role to play in this [long-term] correction.”

OHIO: THREE NEW INNOVATION DISTRICTS

The coronavirus pandemic unleashed seismic forces that are reshaping the economic landscape across the U.S. Businesses are taking stock of their operations and assets, healthcare imperatives are fueling unprecedented investment and advances in biotechnologies, and workforces are reimagining what a meaningful career and better quality of life might look like—and where to find it. The resulting migration of people, companies and capital is on a scale not seen since the late 1990s.

Innovation Hubs
Rendering of the Cincinnati Innovation District. (Source: University of Cincinnati)

Ohio has embraced this generational opportunity, investing in resources that promise to turbocharge growth in the key sectors driving innovation today. With 14 top-ranked hospital systems, and the distinction of being the only state to have two cities named in Forbes’ Top 10 Rising Cities for Startups (Columbus and Cincinnati), Ohio continues to look for ways it can become even more attractive to industrial facilities and talent. The state has now placed an added emphasis not only on sparking innovation, but also creating environments where innovation can flourish over the long-term.

JobsOhio, the state’s private economic development corporation, has acted as a primary catalyst for this transformation. In order to build upon its already robust plans to expand next-generation industrial installations across OH, JobsOhio launched a bold Innovation Strategy in 2020 that has served to attract companies and talent in the fastest growing sectors, improve the vitality of urban and rural areas and empower skilled talent to thrive. From increasing the amount of research, to attracting capital and the formation of new businesses, the strategy has made a significant impact on Ohio’s competitiveness across the entire innovation continuum.

The results have been undeniable. In 2019, when comparing states competing with Ohio for investment dollars, Ohio ranked 15 out of 15. In the first half of 2021, Ohio attracted more venture capital than in all of 2020 and now ranks second in the Midwest for VC opportunities. Enabling this dramatic shift was made possible in part by JobsOhio’s Innovation Strategy, through which Ohio can continue to accelerate the growth of leading-edge companies, technologies and talent.

JobsOhio, the State of Ohio and its partners are investing over $3 billion to fuel the creation of three Innovation Districts in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus, anchored by the State’s top-rated universities and healthcare organizations. JobsOhio is investing $300 million—$100 million in each of the three different Innovation Districts—to create sustainable ecosystems of ideas, infrastructure and talent where the world’s top people and companies come to roll up their sleeves, create and grow. These new Innovation Districts are expected to inspire more than 45,000 new STEM graduates, fuel an estimated 60,000 new jobs and generate up to $9 billion in annual economic impact to the state in the next 10 years.

Ohio’s Innovation Districts are conceptualized around how they can best support the communities they exist in. From the businesses acting as magnets for STEM talent attraction and retention, to medical and research facilities incubating and nurturing new ideas, to the academic institutions creating a pipeline of capable and motivated STEM talent, these districts become self-fulfilling and generate exponential results. “The partnerships we are facilitating across different sectors of the economy through our three Innovation Districts will position Ohio as a both a catalyst for innovation and a home for innovators,” said Gov. Mike DeWine. “The breakthroughs that result from this creative mix of scientific research, academic achievement and commercial development will reinforce Ohio’s reputation as a leader in healthcare and IT nationally and globally.”

Complementing the JobsOhio Innovation Strategy is the JobsOhio Research and Development Center Grant.

Innovation Districts spark the ideas, and research and development (R&D) turns those ideas into tangible products and services. In 2016, JobsOhio committed $100 million to supporting the establishment of a broad array of new R&D labs and centers in the State. JobsOhio’s R&D Center Grant Program facilitates and supports the development and commercialization of emerging technologies in industries that Ohio excels in, such as advanced manufacturing, aerospace & aviation, automotive & autonomous mobility, healthcare & life sciences, information technology & artificial intelligence, logistics & distribution and shale energy & petrochemicals.

Interest in the R&D Center Grant Program has been immense, attracting applications from some of the most successful domestic and international companies. To date, JobsOhio has committed approximately 20 R&D Center Grants, totaling $57.5 million with companies that will invest $460 million and create nearly 1,000 new jobs. In 2019, a Brookings Report called the program “one of the most ambitious efforts” to support a state’s innovation economy and enhance business R&D.

“We are investing today to help nurture the high-growth companies of tomorrow,” said J.P. Nauseef, CEO of JobsOhio. “And when you combine the placemaking of our Innovation Districts with the availability of R&D grants and access to top-flight universities and healthcare organizations, it’s a compelling case for establishing cutting-edge business facilities in Ohio. We’re rolling out the welcome mat.”

Email [email protected] to learn more about JobsOhio’s Innovation Districts.

CALGARY SEEKS GLOBAL SOLUTIONS

The wave of momentum around the digital transformation of industry has put this Western Canadian city on the map—or GPS—as the destination of choice for entrepreneurs embracing innovation and advancing technology to solve global challenges.

From fueling and feeding to healing and moving, Calgary has a long-established innovation ecosystem that attracts international investment, drives growth of vital sectors and supports local startups to become billion-dollar unicorns.

Innovation Hubs
The Platform Innovation Centre in Calgary is opening this fall to provide a single point of access for resources to grow businesses. (Source: Mark L. Johnson)

The commitment to being a leading hub of innovation is a key aspect of the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy. In this era of disruption, from COVID-19 to energy supply and climate change, an innovative approach is the path forward. Cities that embrace this combination of disruption and digitalization, like Calgary, are the ones who adapt to create economic opportunity amidst constant change.

Calgary’s business environment and entrepreneurial mindset is what encourages companies to take chances to solve big problems. The city has more than 100 corporate head offices, the most per capita of any Canadian city, and is home to more than 700 startups, many in tech.

Calgary companies are projected to lead the province of Alberta’s Can$20 billion spend on digital transformation from 2021 to 2024. Its established leadership in 5G preparedness and overall connectivity also positions the city to be a hub for 5G development in Canada.

There’s something in the (Rocky Mountain) air in Calgary, but also in its people. Calgary continues to rise in the ranks of top tech talent cities in North America and recorded double-digit growth in tech talent and total tech jobs over the past five years.

Emerging from initial pandemic lockdowns in 2021, a number of global tech companies, and several smaller niche players, established operations in Calgary. Recent newcomers to the city’s innovation ecosystem include the multinational NYSE-listed tech giants Infosys and Mphasis. Both cited Calgary’s strong STEM talent stream from local post-secondary institutions as reasons to locate to the city.

So much so, Mphasis is establishing a Quantum City Centre of Excellence in Calgary in partnership with the Government of Alberta and University of Calgary—a hub for companies focused on commercial development of quantum technologies.

Royal Bank of Canada announced plans to create a new Calgary Innovation Hub this fall, which will expand on the city’s reputation as a center for fintech in Canada. A pair of top global business accelerators, Endeavor and SVG Ventures | THRIVE also established operations in Calgary this year, the latter focused on agribusiness.

In addition to helping traditional industries like energy and agriculture improve performance and reduce environmental impacts, tech innovation is ubiquitous across all of Calgary’s industrial sectors. The four sectors forecast to lead employment growth in Alberta in the coming years are healthcare, advanced manufacturing, cleantech and interactive digital media.

Cleantech, in particular, is a significant subsector strength in Calgary. The city was included in the Cities A List 2020 by CDP Worldwide for its environmental action, managing climate risk and creating green jobs. Recent headlines note Calgary is becoming the center of Canada’s carbon innovation pivot with a new Energy Transition Centre and carbon removal accelerator.

As an innovation hub in the life sciences, Calgary is host to world-class assets, including the International Microbiome Centre, one of the largest germ-free facilities in the world; the Calgary Cancer Centre, the largest cancer center in Canada and second largest in North America; Ward of the 21st Century, the only hospital “living lab” in Canada; and the University of Calgary’s Life Sciences Innovation Hub, which provides state-of-the-art research facilities and startup services to help companies deliver commercially-viable products and services to market.

Calgary is also an emerging center of excellence in the global aerospace and logistics industry with a municipal Living Lab initiative, which opens up public spaces, transportation corridors, dark fibre and LoRaWAN networks and other City of Calgary owned assets for tech innovation.

For startups and entrepreneurs at all stages of their journey, The Platform Innovation Centre opens this fall to provide a single point of access for resources to grow businesses.

Economic growth and diversification in Calgary are strongly focused on technological advances and digitalization. There is an increasing realization by the “smart money” globally that Calgary is opportunity-rich and future ready.

The province attracted record levels of venture capital investment, mostly in tech, as it sets the stage for the next generation of business success stories. In 2020, it saw Can$455 million invested across 51 deals, most being with Calgary companies.

The City of Calgary is also committing funds to grow the innovation ecosystem with its Can$100 million Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund, intended to help the city reach its goal of 1,000 new tech companies by 2030.

What’s in the water in Calgary is a signature entrepreneurial spirit, a supportive business environment with some of the most affordable Class A downtown office space in North America, and an enviable lifestyle with a Rocky Mountain playground just one hour’s drive away.

Billed as Canada’s most adventurous tech city, Calgary’s reputation as the destination for bright minds to take risks, innovate and build something—the next big thing—is taking hold.

This is a city that is changing with the world and helping to change the world with its sights set on nurturing the creative and brave, while turning the heads of innovators from around the world to call it home.

MISSOURI: LEADING THE CHARGE IN INNOVATION

Companies want to be where innovation is happening. In Missouri, several innovation communities are located throughout the state, providing the collaborative, forward-thinking spirit that small businesses and large corporations thrive on.

Missouri is actively investing in high-tech industries, including geospatial analysis, cybersecurity, agtech and health solutions. As these industries continue to grow, Missouri is positioned to provide companies in these fields with a prime location to work in cutting-edge business innovation centers. Missouri’s innovation centers cater to more than just small startups. From major corporations looking to increase their presence in a high-quality market, to medium-sized businesses needing a community of fellow movers and shakers, Missouri ensures all companies are surrounded by the best and brightest.

Innovation Hubs
The Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T, pictured above) in Rolla, MO, provides innovative manufacturers with a range of business, technical and manufacturing optimization services. (Photo: Michael Pierce/Missouri S&T)

The Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC) is the state’s public-private organization that invests directly in tech and bioscience focused startups to accelerate private capital to fuel growth. MTC’s vision is to transform Missouri through the power of entrepreneurship by serving as a catalyst for technology-based innovation. MTC has invested nearly $44 million into more than 135 early-stage Missouri-based high growth technology-focused companies, which have raised more than $1 billion in additional private capital.

There’s no shortage of innovation centers in the St. Louis region—home of the highest concentration of plant science PhDs in the world. 39 North is the newest innovation district to sprout up in the area. It’s 600 acres and is designed to foster innovation and opportunities for plant science research and the commercialization of products. 39 North is anchored by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, BRDG Park, the Helix Incubator, Bayer Crop Science and the Yield Lab.

The Cortex Innovation Community is the Midwest’s premier innovation hub. The 200-acre district supports bioscience and technology research. It’s surrounded by nationally-ranked universities and medical centers, and is home to the Center for Emerging Technologies (CET), the largest and oldest innovation center in the state.

Innovation Hubs
The Cortex Innovation Community in St. Louis is a hub for bioscience research facilities like BioSTL. (Photo: Janelle Higgins, Missouri Partnership)

T-REX is a coworking space and technology incubator providing entrepreneurs with business support. It’s home to more than 200 companies and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency’s first non-classified innovation center.

On the other side of the state in the Kansas City region, the UMKC Innovation Center supports entrepreneurs focusing on technology commercialization. It provides counseling, education and access to resources. Digital Sandbox–KC brings ideas to life by providing expert feedback and project funding of up to $20,000 to help accelerate innovations toward commercialization; and Startland is a community-building nonprofit activating a thriving and inclusive culture of innovation in Kansas City through stories, experiences and talent.

Innovation is happening in dozens of Missouri communities—not just the state’s largest metros. No matter where companies are located in the state, they’re going to find the supportive environment they’re looking for. Through the state’s network of innovation hubs, innovators are bringing their ideas to market and creating new opportunities around the globe. Here are some examples:

Cape Girardeau: The Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is located on Southeast Missouri State University’s campus. It provides entrepreneurship education and opportunities.

Columbia: The Missouri Innovation Center offers life science and tech startups with resources through its Mid-Mo Tech Incubator, business mentoring and lab space.

Joplin: The Joseph Newman Innovation Center provides affordable office space and assistance for entrepreneurs across various industries.

Kirksville: Missouri Rural Enterprise and Innovation Center works with entrepreneurs across a broad range of industries to encourage new and established entrepreneurs in the region through its training programs and business incubator.

Maryville: The Dean L. Hubbard Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a mixed-use business and technology incubator located on Northwest Missouri State University’s campus.

Rolla: Missouri Enterprise works with innovative Missouri manufacturers and provides a range of business, technical and manufacturing optimization services. Missouri University of Science and Technology is one of just 11 universities in the Midwest to join a new National Science Foundation network designed to move more discoveries from the research labs to the real world.

Springfield: Jordan Valley Innovation Center is a 75,000-square-foot facility that fosters engineering, biomedical and life science research and development in a collaborative environment operated by Missouri State University.

St. Joseph: Christopher S. “Kit” Bond Science and Technology Incubator is located at Missouri Western State University—making it conducive to fostering animal health and nutrition industries. It’s part of Innovation Stockyard, a one-stop business incubator for those who want to start or grow any business, and it specializes in animal health.

Missouri provides an ecosystem that supports companies within various industries through these innovation communities across the state. And leaders in Missouri recognize that companies need top talent to succeed, so the state is putting an emphasis on developing its workforce for current and future employers.

For example, Missouri joined the Workforce Innovation Network, a diverse cohort of 10 states, to incubate ideas, share knowledge and scale innovations to better connect job seekers to work, education and training.

Missouri’s commitment to developing a strong workforce and providing talented individuals with the opportunity to work in cohesive, industry-leading facilities across the state is driving innovation and businesses in Missouri into the future.

TOPEKA: INNOVATION HUB OF THE PRAIRIE

In recent years, the Capital City of Kansas has stepped into the spotlight because of its new Plug and Play Startup Accelerator program. Indeed, Topeka is where startups find more than just their home on the range. But the conditions that have developed a thriving startup ecosystem also contribute to Topeka’s assets within the focus of animal health and ag tech. With a new innovation campus on its way in, a prime location within the Animal Health Corridor solidified and key partnerships with innovation heavy hitters already established, the Capital City is not-so-quietly setting the stage to become the hub of innovation in the Midwest.

Topeka is at the center of it all, including the Animal Health Corridor. The Corridor, anchored by Manhattan, Kansas and Columbia, Missouri, is home to more than 300 animal health companies, representing the largest concentration in the world.

A key contributor to the world of animal health science, and major player in the Corridor, is Hill’s Pet Nutrition. A cornerstone of the Topeka business community for over a century, Hill’s has since stepped out as a global leader in the development and research of nutritional pet products.

Within the last few years Hill’s has made major investments in Topeka. The first being its $20 million expansion of its globally-recognized “Small Paws” pet nutritional center and the development of its new Engagement Center. The nutrition center will focus on the nutritional needs of small breeds dogs, whereas the Engagement Center will be developed to offer engagement opportunities to veterinarians and other pet caregivers. The second investment was finalized in September and consists of a wastewater treatment facility, followed by a new diet-making system. This $31-million investment is expected to yield an economic impact of $495 million for the community in the next 10 years.

In August 2019 it was announced that Topeka had been chosen as the location for the Plug and Play’s animal health and ag tech startup accelerator program. Plug and Play is a global innovation platform headquartered in Silicon Valley.

Plug and Play will bring 20 startups to the city every year with two reoccurring cohorts, one in the fall and one in the spring. Those startups will go through three-month accelerator programs aimed at helping the businesses get off the ground, providing mentorship, resources and office space. There is a 70 percent average success rate for companies that go through a Plug and Play accelerator program, measured in follow-on capital raised.

In summer 2020, Plug and Play announced Cargill and Hill’s Pet Nutrition as founding partners for its newest location in Topeka, KS focused on animal health and agriculture technology. Plug and Play will collaborate with both organizations to create successful opportunities for startups as well as foster a culture of innovation and change across the animal health space. Plug and Play’s partnership with Cargill will focus on working with startups that are creating new technologies and products to build successful food and agricultural businesses and communities; while Hill’s Pet Nutrition will primarily focus on innovations surrounding animal health for companion animals.

In September 2021 GO Topeka, a regional leader in economic development, announced that it closed on multiple properties in Downtown Topeka, as part of the previously announced $14.5 million innovation campus approved by the Joint Economic Development Organization (JEDO) in May 2021. The new campus is designed to take advantage of the arrival of Plug and Play’s Animal Health / Ag Tech Startup Accelerator program.

The ASTRA (Animal Science, Technology, Research and Agriculture) Innovation Center will be a 60,000-square-foot project anchoring a new ASTRA Innovation District in downtown Topeka. The development will repurpose the historic Wolfe’s Camera Shop at 635 S Kansas and will involve two adjacent properties at 633 S Kansas through to 627 S Kansas.

This campus will be developed to take advantage of 20 global startups participating each year in the city’s new Plug and Play Animal Health accelerator program. The ASTRA Innovation Center will offer world-class facilities, including wet labs, flexible work and meeting spaces. It will feature office space for business research and innovation, as well as a rooftop venue for events.

GO Topeka is working to develop the campus in partnership BioRealty, Inc.

A cluster of ag tech and animal health programs are offered at various area universities, many within a 60-mile radius of Topeka. These resources contribute to a skilled, industry-focused workforce that only serves to strengthen the Capital City’s hub of innovation status.

LAUNCH, SCALE, INNOVATE IN WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY

Boasting a legacy of excellence in biosciences and with a knack for helping entrepreneurs launch and scale, it’s no surprise that Westchester County, New York is a vibrant hub for innovation.

Located just north of Manhattan, Westchester County is home to the largest biosciences cluster in New York State, boasting 8,000 jobs and 20 percent of the State’s total biosciences employment. The cluster comprises academic institutes doing basic research; R&D and clinical stage startups; large manufacturers and supply chain participants; and related industry experts providing specialized consulting, financing, marketing and communications, and other support services.

With New York ranking second in the nation for both life sciences jobs and higher education degrees in biosciences, Westchester’s vibrant life sciences industry benefits from access to top notch talent and a wide range of opportunities for this talent pool to apply its skills. It also benefits from the recent addition of a Biosciences Industry Desk, which supports the biosciences industry by identifying trends and needs of the existing ventures, as well as helping to attract new businesses. The Industry Desk is staffed by the Office of Economic Development, and supported by the Bioscience Industry Task Force, which includes key business leaders and stakeholders from across the local biosciences industry.

This prime location and thriving biosciences cluster is home to the Westchester County Biosciences Accelerator (WCBA), which supports ventures with an idea who need to expand beyond their current network and put together funding and teams to grow their ventures.

The Accelerator is currently accepting applications for its third cohort (apply at WCBAccelerator.org), and is an integral part of the County’s biosciences ecosystem and the vast network of resources it has invested in to support entrepreneurs.

When the pandemic first hit Westchester in early 2020, the Westchester County Office of Economic Development took on the daunting task of helping residents to create new revenue streams. Launch1000, a new program designed to help up to 1,000 Westchester residents turn their big ideas into businesses and nonprofits, offers free entrepreneurship education, mentorship and networking. The program has received rave reviews from participants and currently has its first group of revenue-generating ventures graduating from the program. The organizations emerging from the program are very diverse—as is the pool of program participants.

Launch1000 has attracted career-changers, serial entrepreneurs, those making pandemic pivots and many more, who are bringing to life ideas for everything from real estate, consumer goods, eco-friendly endeavors and logistics to nonprofits offering support to those dealing with hunger, domestic violence and sickle cell disease.

Launch1000 is an invaluable resource for those who have never launched a business, need help refining a concept or are in the true infancy of a launch. Element 46, Westchester County’s premier startup incubator, is designed to help entrepreneurs scale their ventures. The incubator recently launched its third cohort and is focusing on supporting entrepreneurs whose startups are leveraging technology to drive innovation in their respective fields.

Located just minutes away from New York City via car or train, Westchester County offers more affordable commercial real estate options and is not only a great place to work, but to live. Contributing to the high quality of life for residents are 18,000 acres of parkland, vibrant downtowns and quiet suburbs, and top-rated schools. Whether a business is just launching or scaling, there is tremendous opportunity in Westchester County, New York.

FLORIDA: STRATEGICALLY LOCATED CENTERS OF TECHNOLOGY

The pace at which business models and location decision factors changed during the COVID-19 pandemic happened quicker than any of us could have predicted. And as business models shift, so too have the operational models that accompany them.

“Diversification of supply chain to mitigate risk, tax environment, quality of talent and incentives have become more important in the current environment,” said Larry Gigerich, executive managing director at site consultancy Ginovus in an interview with the Orlando Economic Partnership. As companies reevaluate business models and reassess operations, increasing importance is given to mitigating future risk—whether that’s through lower operating costs, a more secure supply chain or seeking a more business-friendly tax and regulatory environment.

Innovation Hubs
Orlando’s Lake Nona welcomed new innovation-driven operations from KPMG, Disney, Red 6, Lilium and SIMCOM just in the past year alone. (Photo: Lake Nona)

An emerging trend is the rise of technology and innovation centers placed strategically in locations with significant value (fast-growing tech talent pools with business-friendly environments). While this trend existed pre-pandemic, it has been amplified by the current environment and transition to a more digital, hybrid workplace as well as the enablement of more diversely distributed geographic locations.

For example, leading public sector software firm, Civix, opened an innovation-driven Center of Excellence (largely made up of the company’s software developers together under one roof) in 2020. The company had been pursuing this strategy for years but made the decision just one year into the pandemic. Civix’s new center of technology focuses entirely on overcoming the unique IT challenges facing state and local governments, and while Civix was fortunate to see growth due to government services deemed essential during COVID, the heightened trend of new centers of technology is poised to intensify as the nation and world recovers from the pandemic.

“For decades Civix Government has been leading the charge, and we are doubling down on that legacy with an eye toward revolutionizing the GovTech space with new energy, new vision and new products,” said Tom Amburgey, the CEO of Civix. The company pursued an in-depth site selection process that involved more than a dozen locations across the U.S., but in the end, the decision came down to the density of tech talent, in particular IT and engineering talent. “The Orlando region quickly became the clear frontrunner with its deep skilled-talent pool, proximity to airports and universities and livability.”

Another example is KPMG’s new Capability Center in Orlando’s Lake Nona; this new Center is the first of the company’s operations to house employees from both the company’s Tax and Advisory Services divisions. As KPMG’s U.S. Vice Chair and Global Head of Advisory related, “To ensure we continue to deliver excellence in client service as the business environment continues to evolve, the ability to modernize our delivery model and become more digitally enabled are crucial.” KPMG plans to add at least 350 new jobs to the Capability Center, which is located down the street from the company’s largest capital investment project to-date, KPMG’s Lakehouse.

In fact, Orlando has seen a number of companies expanding technology operations—or in some cases, creating new nodes of operations entirely—throughout the metro area in the past few years, not the least of which includes the relocation of Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products Division to Lake Nona. Just before that, air taxi company, Lilium, chose Lake Nona for its revolutionary flagship U.S. vertiport (vertical take-off and landing) location, redefining the scope of regional air mobility and transportation technology in Florida and across the country.

The powerful combination of available tech talent and business-friendly environment drove autonomous vehicle tech company Luminar to set up shop in Central Florida Research Park. Luminar, which listed on Nasdaq under “LAZR” in December 2020 at a $7 billion valuation, needed to find a significant amount of specialized talent in optics and photonics to affordably develop and manufacture its new sensor technology. The company found this density of talent in the research park where all the largest Department of Defense laser programs are based, not coincidentally located next door to the university created to support the U.S. Space Race, the University of Central Florida (UCF).

Electronic Arts Tiburon’s (EA Tiburon) new state-of-the-art facility in the City of Orlando’s downtown core is the perfect example of a new-age technology center, located in the 68-acre digital media district of Creative Village. With creative talent and community involvement at the heart of EA Tiburon’s global strategy, the company took advantage of a closer relationship with UCF’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA), also located in Creative Village, as well as the new UCF and Valencia College downtown campus, to create a steady pipeline for talent attraction and mentorship involvement in the community.

As the country faces a significant shortage in semiconductor (or “chip”) technology, investment in U.S.-based semiconductor manufacturing is primed to grow. The need for more efficient technology is a big part of that future growth, and why Skywater Technology Foundry is investing in the capabilities of one of the world’s most advanced sensor development and research fabrication facilities, the Center for NeoVation. Skywater’s operational partnership strategically positions the company to take advantage of not just the nation’s future demand for chip technology, but the STEM talent pipeline feeding the emerging NeoCity tech district, including UCF, Florida Polytechnic University, Florida Institute of Technology and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, with University of Florida and University of South Florida less than a two-hour drive away.

As business models continue to evolve over time, the combination of a strong, dedicated talent pool and collaborative business environment remain key to any business’ operational strategy. At the same time that technology decentralizes the workplace, and even a company’s geographic location, centers of innovation will remain a crucial component to any location decision—even more so as talent begins to re-think the advantages of live/work/play environments. Quality of place remains king in location decisions, and as economic recovery continues, the future hubs of technology centers across the country may not be where you think.

Check out all the latest economic development, corporate relocation, corporate expansion and site selection news related to innovation hubs.

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