Top Innovation Districts Find Partnerships that Drive Growth

4 minute read

Ribbon cutting ceremony for the Innovation Quarter's Long Branch Trail

The most robust and impactful innovation districts are anchors within their communities, but they don’t achieve greatness independently. Strategic partnerships—both public and private—are vital to growing innovation districts and helping them thrive.

Key Benefits of Partnerships

Organizations have different strengths—some are exemplary at fundraising and grant writing, while others excel in engaging and motivating community volunteers. Some have prominent physical spaces that can be utilized to act on a vision, while businesses and universities have experts researching and innovating in various fields. By building partnerships with all types of organizations, innovation districts can leverage the strengths, resources and influence of others.

Stronger Grant Applications

Bringing together a diverse group of collaborators who have the right expertise is beneficial in securing a grant. Showing that a potential project has the support and attention of several organizations also boosts confidence in its success.

Expanded Network

More eyes and ears in your expanded innovation district network mean more possibilities for identifying new opportunities.

Tap into Resources in the Community

No single organization can have the best of everything—meeting spaces, learning labs, medical equipment, etc. Top innovation districts lean on partners to help provide the resources needed to ignite innovation and make an idea come to life. Identifying the assets available within an innovation district can help recruit and attract even more partners seeking complementary physical and intellectual support.

Successful Innovation Districts Partner with a Variety of Organizations

Academic partnerships are often foundational to developing an innovation district, but many more players contribute to a dynamic environment. The Global Institute on Innovation Districts (GIID) has found that top innovation districts engage a variety of partners to create a competitive advantage. These include:[1]

  • Anchor institutions, such as research universities and medical centers
  • Local, state, regional and, increasingly, national governments
  • Community and civic workforce development and local not-for-profit organizations
  • Anchor and growth companies, particularly those with research and development strengths
  • Start-ups, spin-offs and scale-ups, which are increasingly eager to be engaged in the development of districts
  • Master developers and major landowners
  • Venture capitalists and other investors
  • The growing number of intermediaries that work across actors or sectors
A convergence of partners discussing a project.

Innovation District Partnerships in Action

Javara and Its Innovation District Partners Strive for Better Patient Outcomes

Javara, Inc., an integrated research organization, has partnered with Innovation Quarter anchor Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to expand its footprint. To achieve better health outcomes, Javara connects patients in need with otherwise inaccessible care via clinical trials. Doctors and clinical trial navigators have access to a more inclusive patient population. Participating patients receive consistent care and monitoring and gain a better understanding of their health throughout the process.

Public Green Space Emerges from Innovation District Partnerships

Green space and connectivity are cornerstones of the best innovation districts—and the Long Branch Trail is just one of many projects that checks those boxes for the Innovation Quarter. Built through a partnership with the City of Winston-Salem, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Rail Division, the 1.7-mile long greenway connects the tenants of the Innovation Quarter with nearby public parks and universities. The Long Branch Trail not only gives bikers, runners and walkers a way to traverse the city safely—but it also strengthens the city of Winston-Salem’s emphasis on health and wellness, improves its reputation as pedestrian- and bike-friendly and encourages connectivity by providing a public space that serves all in the community.

Woman running on the Innovation Quarter's Long Branch Trail

Top Innovation Districts Flourish with Support

Innovation districts facilitate the creation and commercialization of new ideas and support growing economies, but they can’t operate in a vacuum. A strong network of partners, including academic institutions, start-ups and property developers, paired with the support of local government and the community, is key to tapping into the potential of the innovation district.

Three Steps to Activating and Growing an Innovation District

With a vision of economic development and civic impact, innovation districts are dynamic physical spaces where people from all walks of life can convene and grow. We’ve got three critical strategies for catalyzing that growth and maximizing potential in an innovation district.

Cover of eBook: Your Guide to Innovation District Growth

[1] Wagner, J., Katz, B., & Osha, T. (2019, June 7). The Evolution of Innovation Districts: The New Geography of Global Innovation [Whitepaper]. The Global Institute on Innovation Districts.