Cleveland Innovation Project announces initiatives to propel region’s growth

by | Oct 14, 2020

Aim is to establish Cleveland as a leading Midwestern region for technology-led growth and inclusion by 2030

CLEVELAND—October 14, 2020—The Cleveland Innovation Project— an alliance of the Cleveland Foundation, Fund For Our Economic Future, Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP), JumpStart, and TeamNEO— announced its vision for how to establish Cleveland as a leading Midwestern region for technology-led growth and inclusion by 2030 at GCP’s Annual Meeting earlier today. Guided by a Steering Committee of corporate and civic leaders, the Project has identified strategic sectors primed for development as well as initiatives to bolster the innovation ecosystem to strengthen the region’s technology-based economic growth and prosperity for all Greater Cleveland residents.

“Since GCP was founded, a primary focus of the organization has been partnering with others to improve the economic vitality of the region,” said Joe Roman, President and CEO at GCP. “We recognize that if we align agendas and collaborate more deeply across the region, we can accelerate and amplify positive impact in the community,”

Based on a review of the region’s innovation assets and industry clusters, market trends, and input from more than 150 business, entrepreneurial, institutional, and civic leaders, three strategic sectors emerged as having the most powerful combination of strengths, opportunities, impact potential, and readiness for scaled growth efforts:

Smart Manufacturing: Leading in innovation, application and scaling of industrial digital technologies, leveraging Cleveland’s position as one of the largest and most diverse manufacturing hubs.
Health Innovation: Developing the technologies and service models for delivering excellent remote and community health care, reducing health disparities, and promoting wellness, and becoming a global center for pathogens and infectious disease research and development and the manufacturing of new diagnostics and medicines.
Water Technologies: Becoming a leading center for next-generation solutions—controls, treatments, data, and analytics—for a water-stressed world.

Within each sector, the focus is on expanding platforms that connect innovators, institutions, entrepreneurs, and industry to leverage technologies and digital applications for creating new products, services, and companies.

These three strategic sectors will be enhanced by four initiatives to strengthen the region’s innovation ecosystem:

Boost Digital/STEM Talent: Align and expand education and training programs—post-secondary through post-graduate—to prepare many and diverse individuals for careers in digital/STEM jobs.
Catalyze a Capital Continuum: Foster and provide access to a robust and varied range of private capital sources to start and scale businesses.
Expedite Digital Equity: Ensure every Greater Cleveland resident has access to in-home high-quality broadband for online learning, working, and living by 2022.
Enhance Innovation Zones: Develop the region’s primary innovation geographies—the Health-Tech Corridor and the Opportunity Corridor—to accelerate outcomes through proximity, connections, and inclusivity.

Reflecting the mission of the Project, the sector and ecosystem initiatives address both business growth and talent development. Each initiative is comprised of multiple programs that will be coordinated and integrated, and each initiative will regularly review progress and make necessary adaptations to achieve its goals and the overall vision.

“Through this unprecedented collaboration across sectors and organizations, we have an opportunity to fuel technology-driven growth that creates family-sustaining wage jobs for all skill levels and benefits our entire community,” said Ronn Richard, President and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation. “Inclusive innovation is critical to Cleveland’s future.”

“While the COVID-19 crisis has created new economic and health challenges requiring our continued attention, accelerating our technology-led innovation economy with a focus on inclusive growth offers Cleveland an opportunity to strengthen its recovery,” said Ray Leach, CEO of JumpStart.

The Project has set the following cumulative goals for the region to achieve by 2030:

● 20,000 additional tech-led innovation jobs, with 25% held by Black or Latinx individuals and 50% held by women
● 20,000 additional digital or STEM graduates educated and retained, or attracted to Cleveland, with 25% being Black or Latinx and 50% being women
● >$2 billion in increased targeted research investment
● >$4 billion in total invested capital in tech-led companies, with 25% of companies having Black or Latinx executives and 50% having women executives
● 100% of Greater Cleveland households with high-quality broadband connectivity by 2022
● >2 million square feet of new institutional, commercial, residential, and community development in the Health-Tech and Opportunity Corridors.

“The work of the Cleveland Innovation Project in many ways responds to the call we put forth in The Two Tomorrows to address our region’s economic underperformance and to confront and eliminate racial inequities in our outcomes,” said Bethia Burke, President of the Fund For our Economic Future. “We need to change our collective aspirations, pegging success not just to growth but who benefits from growth, and these goals are a good starting point.”

From its inception, the Project has been designed as a catalyst and connector that builds upon and works with existing institutions and organizations across the region. This network approach enables efficient and effective execution and encourages collaboration across the portfolio of initiatives and the ecosystem. Recent announcements from Project-aligned partners such as expanded efforts in the Smart Manufacturing and Water Technologies sectors and new talent programs, digital equity initiatives, and innovation corridor development demonstrate this approach.

“We have been focused on developing a strong, collaborative system across companies, institutions, and economic organizations,” said Bill Koehler, President and CEO of TeamNEO. “Through that alignment, we can significantly advance the region and benefit its residents.”

The alliance partners recruited Baiju R. Shah, Senior Fellow for Innovation at the Cleveland Foundation, earlier this year to lead the Project. The group will continue to work closely with private, nonprofit, public, and philanthropic organizations to orchestrate the full portfolio of initiatives and programs required to fulfill its mission.