Innovation District Master Plan Tips

3 minute read

An aerial shot of the Innovation Quarter, an innovation district in Winston-Salem, NC.

Before jumping into funding or growth strategies, it’s important to understand why an innovation district should exist in the first place. Identifying its purpose and defining the intended impact on an area are mission-critical steps to developing an innovation district master plan. 

Understanding Needs to Drive Purpose

Solutions with no catalyst to scale? Talent with nowhere to go? Innovation districts are defined by the proximity of organizations, companies, leaders and citizens with related goals; however, successful innovation districts build transformative bridges between them. Understanding the community’s needs and how an innovation district can fill those needs should always be the first step to defining an innovation district master plan.

Leverage the Community’s Knowledge

An essential step in the planning process is engaging the public. Their insight on what they want the area’s future to look like can help inform an innovation district master plan that will win support and excitement from the community. These conversations can also inspire how existing assets might be able to leverage each other, fueling mutually beneficial relationships that drive growth and contribute to the innovation district’s goal.

It’s important to understand what individual entities are looking to achieve and what they need to reach their goals. An innovation district may be able to provide access to or make connections between those resources and partners that align with any unmet needs.

Complement the Innovation District’s Goals

Equally as important as recognizing how to activate potential among existing innovation district resources is identifying new initiatives that could support the work going on within it. Considering the area’s conditions can inspire opportunities for these initiatives.

  • What are the demographics of the area? How can the innovation district support these groups?
  • What are housing and transportation options? How can the innovation district help create a place suitable for living?
  • Who are the major employers, and what industries do they serve? What resources can the innovation district provide to build a strong workforce?
  • What academic institutions are in the area? How can the innovation district leverage the expertise and network of those institutions?
  • Who are the existing leaders in the community? How can the innovation district use their influence to strengthen the overall mission?

Defining Metrics to Measure Innovation District Effectiveness

Both short- and long-term goals should guide an innovation district master plan. A stable and healthy innovation district takes years to substantiate. Long-term goals ensure the innovation district stays true to its roots and solves the community’s needs, while short-term goals help keep it on track along the way.

Quantifying the innovation district’s growth can help determine whether the partnerships and initiatives encourage growth as intended. Depending on the innovation district’s goals, metrics for short- or long-term success might include:

  • Number of jobs created
  • Number of employees placed through innovation district programs
  • Dollars invested from private and public sectors
  • Foot traffic in public spaces
  • Number of benches, trash cans or other public amenities
  • Level of programming engagement
  • Types of programming and events
  • Demographic makeup
  • Commercial and residential leasing activity

A Master Plan that’s True to Your Innovation District 

It’s tough to go anywhere without a roadmap, and innovation districts are no exception. As companies, startups and community members come together to form an innovation district, a master plan rooted in a purpose establishes its foothold for future growth and provides a vision for impact and success. 

Cover of eBook: Keys to developing a vibrant, dynamic innovation district.

Innovate Today, Transform Tomorrow

Establishing a successful innovation district takes a village. But with the right strategies and partnerships, it can manifest a vibrant community. From driving economic growth to fostering inclusive collaboration, there are some key tactics you don’t want to overlook.