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June 23, 2024 | Tom Ballard

New Nashville Innovation Alliance launched

The new initiative is led by new Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell and Vanderbilt University Chancellor Daniel Diermeier.

There was a big innovation-related announcement out of Nashville last week.

On Thursday the Nashville Office of the Mayor joined with Vanderbilt University to launch a new initiative, the Nashville Innovation Alliance, that is designed to bring together public, private, civic, and educational institutions to collaborate on improving the region’s ecosystem for innovation and research. 

In an announcement Thursday from Mayor Freddie O’Connell and Vanderbilt University Chancellor Daniel Diermeier, the two executives described the new initiative’s goal as growing Nashville’s innovation capacity to create economic expansion and inclusive prosperity. The Nashville Innovation Alliance will create a structure for increased coordination to develop initiatives to create a greater abundance of talent, a stronger network of investors, easy access to research, and dedicated space and programs for innovation.  

“The Nashville Innovation Alliance has the potential to bolster our place as a hub of creative thinking and innovation,” Mayor O’Connell said. “The alliance brings together key partners to support entrepreneurs, innovators and a new generation of leaders. Their work will move Nashville forward by ensuring our economy is competing in not only traditionally strong sectors but also in modern emerging categories. I want to thank Chancellor Diermeier for his commitment to Nashville and the alliance.” 

With more than $1 billion in annual external research funding across the university and Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a long track record of translating research into practice, Vanderbilt is a strong anchor for innovation and venture creation.   

“Vanderbilt and Nashville are inextricably linked,” Diermeier said. “This alliance will allow us to have a greater positive impact on Nashville as we work together to imagine, create and innovate. We have the potential to profoundly shape our shared future as an incubator of innovation and to dramatically increase our ability to attract and retain talent and investment.”   

Diermeier and O’Connell said their next step is to bring together partners from across the city to help further develop a strategy and determine priorities.  

A steering committee to guide the alliance includes:

  • O’Connell and Diermeier, who will serve as Co-Chairs;
  • The Chief Executive Officers of three Nashville-based organizations – Elise Cambournac of the Greater Nashville Technology Council; Lindsey Cox of Launch Tennessee, and Sam Davidson of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center;
  • Padma Raghavan, Vanderbilt’s Vice Provost for Research and Innovation; and
  • Isaac Addae, Manager of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development in the mayor’s office. 

Sally Parker, Vanderbilt’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Strategy and Operations, is listed as the primary contact for the Alliance.

As an initial project for the alliance, Diermeier and O’Connell would like to develop an “urban lab” model to deploy innovative solutions to address some of the city’s most pressing issues. Having a robust innovation ecosystem will be critical for an urban lab model to be successful, according to Diermeier, as it involves piloting, scaling, and often commercializing new technologies.

“We are at our best when the public and private sectors are partners in solving the key problems of our day,” Mayor O’Connell said. “From that partnership, we get the best solutions to keeping Nashville affordable, solving our transportation issues, and modernizing our sustainability practices so the city remains a great place to live and grow. This alliance will ensure that thought leaders have the resources they need to act on the solutions we believe in.” 

For nearly a decade, Vanderbilt has collaborated with the mayor’s office and the city to design, implement, and evaluate numerous solutions aimed at addressing complex sociotechnical challenges facing the city and region. The alliance will provide additional support for those efforts and help identify new projects that are aligned with the city’s priorities and with the expertise of Vanderbilt and collaborating institutions. 

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