Many cities and states are laying claim to the title Innovation Hub. But is there a way for those considering where to open or relocate a business to tell if a city or state is walking the walk?
Innovation centers are the future, but to determine if it has truly taken root in a place, you must look to the recent past and ask: Have big investments been made to encourage innovative thinking among executives and students alike? Have public school initiatives and workforce-training programs equipped residents with STEAM skills?
Rhode Island recently underwent a successful makeover into a true hub of innovation, an initiative that took many years. This small state has become a leader of the pack for other places that want to prioritize innovation—and not just by paying lip service to the concept.
What Rhode Island has also done is the following:
- Invest: Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo’s innovation initiatives include investments in the form of tax credits, grants and workforce training programs and partnerships between schools and local companies. The Innovation Voucher Program offers companies with fewer than 500 employees the opportunity to apply for grants of up to $50,000 to fund an R&D project alongside a local university, research center or medical center. This program supports research that leads to commercialization for small and growing businesses.
- Support: Created the Innovate Rhode Island Small Business Fund in 2013 to support a variety of small business programming to foster job creation and enhance the workforce pipeline. The Fund encourages the establishment of high-growth ventures in Rhode Island.
- Collaborate: Twenty acres in Downtown Providence are being cultivated as the state’s new Innovation and Design District. Situated between academic and business partners, the District has a unifying vision of innovation and economic development.
- Educate: Under Gov. Raimondo, Rhode Island implemented strong statewide STEAM education and training, including CS4RI, the country’s most comprehensive computer science initiative. And the Wavemaker Fellowship is positioned to keep graduates in-state by defraying the cost of student debt for grads working in the STEM fields at Rhode Island employers.
To tell if a place is innovative, look to the caliber of companies arriving there. General Electric will open its digital technology center in Providence. Trade Area Systems is leaving Massachusetts for Providence to recruit better talent. Extracts producer Finlays will open a research and manufacturing space in the state and General Dynamics Electric Boat plans to hire thousands of new employees at its Quonset Point shipyard.
Rhode Island is now the fastest-growing advanced industries hub in New England. According to the 2016 Brookings Institution’s American’s Advanced Industries: New Trends report, it’s now in the top third in the nation for advanced industries job growth. From 2013 to 2015, the rate of growth in advanced industries jobs increased by 285 percent. In 2015, more than 40,000 full-time workers were employed in advanced industries, earning an average salary of $73,918.Categories: Innovation