David J. Adams, Cincinnati Innovation District
It’s been just over a year since the unveiling of the Cincinnati Innovation District (CID), a purpose-built model that attracts talent as well as Fortune 500, midsize, and startups. We spoke to David Adams, the first chief innovation officer for the University of Cincinnati and architect for the Cincinnati Innovation District about its progress so far.
Tell us in your own words what the purpose of the CID is.
Adams: It's all about growing, attracting, and retaining talent here in our region. People are drawn to locations where innovation is occurring, and organizations are drawn to that talent. The CID is in close proximity to students, research, educational resources, and other organizations seeking to transform. It is a highly connective —live, work, learn, and play—ecosystem.
Our efforts are modeled after much research by leading experts, such as the Brookings Institution, Jonathan Gruber, Richard Florida, and many others, on innovation districts. These are ‘places’ typically anchored by major research institutions.
How did all of this begin?
Adams: For us, it all started in 2017 with President Pinto creating the office of innovation to serve as a connector between the community and the university. The 1819 Innovation Hub serves as the nerve center and was at capacity in less than two years with startups to Fortune 500 businesses. These organizations have physical spaces to innovate, access and connect with talent. We broke ground on the digital futures complex in 2019 and the first two buildings, comprising nearly 400K SF (of a planned 600K SF development), will be completed in mid-2022.
This interdisciplinary research institute will further connect research talent with industry. The CID, by extension, ties everything together by providing us a collective opportunity to highlight to the nation and the world the innovation that is occurring here in our great city anchored by world-class educational and research institutions – seeing is believing.
We need to stem the tide of our highly skilled talent—who may leave for other places—by making this district a destination location. This helps us from an economic standpoint to really strengthen the businesses we have here in Cincinnati, as well as attract future businesses because innovation is the new currency for every organization.
The anchors in the program are UC and Cincinnati Children’s. Can you talk about what each contributes?
Adams: The University of Cincinnati, a Carnegie Level 1 research institution, is 47K students strong and produces $500M+ annually in research. The economic engine of the university fuels the needs of employers to support their growth.
Cincinnati Children’s, a trailblazer in healthcare research and a dominant leader in pediatric care, is integral to having a robust innovation district.