St Louis: From run-down industrial area to pulsating innovation district

“Power now belongs to the problem solvers.” With these words, Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak introduce their new book, The New Localism in which they describe a new development that is not only prevalent in the US, but in the entire world. Where complex global challenges are being solved locally on city level in innovation districts. Where local actors across sectors come together in new constellations and networks to share knowledge and co-create innovative and sustainable solutions.

Among the many good examples that Katz and Nowak present, we find the Cortex Innovation Community in St. Louis, USA. To learn more about the transforming journey that Cortex has been on for the last 15 years – one which we are just embarking on in ØICC – we contacted the head of the innovation district. Read here what insights Dennis Lower, CEO in Cortex, shared with us, and learn about their work with cross-sector innovation.

What distinguishes Cortex from other innovation districts?
“Cortex is a 200-acre industrial district that is being repurposed as a technology commercialization center. Today it is home to over 350 companies and 4,300 employees. We are focused on building a community of innovators through intentional programming and placemaking that helps break down company “silos” by facilitating interaction among district employees.”

How do you work with innovation across sectors?
“We work closely with our local universities and established companies within the district and host events and programs that largely target the Cortex startups. Our theory of practice for cross-sector innovation is to build and maintain the infrastructure that encourages innovation to emerge: buildings with multiple uses, programs that continuously attract new people, and a willingness to collaborate on complicated problems.”

What is your vision for Cortex?
“Innovation districts take decades to fully mature, and we just finished our fifteenth year. A challenge we are currently facing includes continuing to build the tech talent pool to supply our growing regional innovation workforce demand. Addressing this and other key challenges will allow us to maintain our momentum and achieve our vision: thousands of people living, working, playing and learning in and around Cortex, supporting the growth of a St. Louis regional innovation economy.”

Do you want to know more about Cortex? Then visit their website here.

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