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May 13, 2021 | Tom Ballard

COMMENTARY: Ohio is on the innovation train and here are some key reasons

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

The Wall Street Journal hosted a three-day series this week under the banner of “The Future of Everything Festival.” As a personal subscriber, I had the opportunity to attend the virtual sessions for free and, while I was not able to watch many of them, one in particular captured my attention.

The title was “Tech Hubs of the Future,” sponsored by JobsOhio, the now 10-year old private organization focused on, what else but jobs creation in the Buckeye State. We knew it would be somewhat of a commercial for Ohio, but we have also published a number of links to articles about innovation and entrepreneurial initiatives in that state.

More important, as regular readers of know, there are efforts underway in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region to become one of those recognized “Tech Hubs of the Future.” So, we tuned-in for the 30-minute Zoom-delivered discussion and walked away with a few points worth consideration by local leaders.

  • Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted was one of the panelists. He’s a former Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and a former Ohio Secretary of State. Saying “there is nothing that is not tech today,” Husted cited two initiatives as critically important to Ohio’s drive to be a leader in innovation and, not surprising, it was the creation of two new innovation districts in Columbus and Cincinnati (see just published commentary here authored by the Chief Innovation Officer at the University of Cincinnati and lead architect of Cincinnati Innovation District.) He also, however, cited something called the “Ohio IP Promise.” The latter is an agreement among 14 public and two private universities that “establishes a uniform set of guiding principles so researchers know exactly how they can take charge of their work and make it available to the public.” It also includes standard option and licensing templates so faculty and student innovators know the terms of their commercialization before even starting to engage in the process.
  • Another panelist was Mark Kvamme, Co-Founder of Drive Capital that is based in Columbus. A native of Silicon Valley and alumnus of corporations like Apple and funds like Sequoia Capital, Kvamme described what he found in Ohio that attracted him to leave the West Coast for the Midwest. It was a thriving, diverse economy; world class universities; a very favorable business climate; great location for companies; low cost of living; great quality of life; and access to talent. Sound familiar? “What was missing was venture capital,” Kvamme said. Does that also sound familiar? “Many people said we were crazy when we started Drive Capital,” he added. Today, the firm has raised more than $1.2 billion for its investments in the region.

Glad we took 30 minutes to confirm what we mostly knew about what it takes to move a state or region forward. It’s bold vision, strong leadership, and public-private collaboration. On Monday, we’ll cast a spotlight on the newest report from the Knoxville Chamber that focuses on the all-important talent need. How does our region stack-up?

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