Oklahoma City’s new innovation district could demonstrate power of place
By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2015, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
There’s a grassroots trend afoot in entrepreneurship that’s really gaining steam. I’m going to call it the Power of Place.
That’s why the vision of Oklahoma City as an innovation district is so exciting. “The idea is that metropolitan areas across the world are becoming the places where economies are being built,” said Roy Williams, president and CEO of the Oklahoma City Chamber.
“The paradigm of innovation has changed. It used to be we built a building that was a research facility on 50 to 60 acres of land — like Research Triangle Park (in North Carolina),” he said. “People drove there to work, and then they drove home. New innovation hubs have a very different paradigm. These new hubs are places where people work, live, play and learn.”
The Chamber approached the Brookings Institute to seek their help on mapping a plan. There was considerable back and forth — never underestimate Williams’ power of persuasion — and here’s the outcome.
Oklahoma City has been chosen as one the first two pilot cities for The Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking, a collaboration between the Brookings Institute and Project for Public Space.
We have a unique situation here that most other cities don’t have.
Innovation hubs are typically anchored by universities or research institutions. We have that and more with the Oklahoma Health Center, the OU Health Sciences Center, Stephenson Cancer Center, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, the Dean McGee Eye Institute, and the soon to be completed GE Global Research Center as well as many health and bioscience-related startups.
We have great Bricktown and world-class public spaces. The Urban Land institute just voted Myriad Gardens best Global Urban Open Space.
The innovation hub vision includes developing other types of infrastructure and amenities — housing, retail, and restaurants. There are currently about 18,000 jobs in the HSC, which means there is a built-in demand for housing, retail, restaurants, and other amenities. Imagine if there were 500 to 1000 apartments close to Oklahoma Health Center, and suddenly thousands of people — students, interns, or researchers — who could walk to work, shopping, and restaurants.
The Power of Place isn’t a vision for some kind of exclusive high tech corridor. It’s a plan to get people from different disciplines to connect.
It is all about the medical researcher talking to the aerospace engineer talking to the barista who is making a latte for them both. It’s about engineers from GE reaching out into the community to include students from adjacent neighborhoods into the promise of the local community.
Turning Oklahoma City a pace-setting innovation hub leverages people across industries, institutions, and functions to connect to generate new ideas and new enterprises and to more quickly and easily commercialize research which leads to new jobs and wealth creation.
That’s the Power of Place.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.