O’Connor: Innovation District moving forward

It’s been six months since the Brookings Institution presented its Oklahoma City Innovation District report to a room packed with a diverse group of people; city and business leaders, employers and researchers, all invested in developing an Innovation District in Oklahoma City.

The report was the result of an 18-month study conducted by Brookings and Project for Public Spaces on how Oklahoma City can be more attractive for entrepreneurs and startup companies. Since then, the partner institutions have made foundational strides toward making the vision outlined in the Brookings study a reality.

The Oklahoma Health Center Foundation is overseeing the staffing and administration for the district. They have been working with partners and stakeholders to determine the budget and funding. This includes a national search for an executive director, which is underway. This step is fundamental to the development of the district since many of the actions listed in the report are designed to occur after the hiring of an executive director.

One of the Brookings recommendations was to build on Oklahoma City’s long-standing industry strengths in energy, aerospace and health to foster a convergence economy. Through shared knowledge and collaboration, Oklahoma City can advance innovation and attract new business in these industries.

One of the district task forces has established quarterly symposiums centered on common technologies and techniques within these industries. The first symposium, held in April, focused on imaging. The second symposium, held last week, brought in speakers and panelists to facilitate conversations on big data analytics. Both symposiums were sold-out events.

Another important step is to determine future land uses in the district. Since the institutions and neighborhoods in the district are unique, it is important to design a plan that accommodates them, is attractive to future business and creates more opportunities for collaboration. A request for proposals will soon be released to identify a firm to create the land use plan.

Brookings concluded its report by saying, “With the right investments, the Oklahoma City innovation district has the potential to become a major center of gravity for innovation and economic development in Oklahoma City.” We are now in the process of creating an organization and laying the groundwork to set that potential in motion.

Cathy O’Connor is president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.

See the original piece at journalrecord.com.

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