Update on the Norfolk Innovation Corridor’s Work with The Global Institute on Innovation Districts

Norfolk Innovation Corridor
Global Institute on Innovation Districts

In July 2023, the Norfolk Innovation Corridor (NIC) announced its participation in the Global Network program of The Global Institute on Innovation Districts (GIID), a prestigious group comprised of what is considered the gold standard of innovation districts worldwide. Since then, the NIC team has fully engaged in the new learning program, participating in strategic sessions with other districts and GIID leadership and taking advantage of tailored support and new connections to maximize the potential of Norfolk’s technology zone.

Some of the key benefits of our participation in the network include focused one-on-one support to discuss our district’s top priorities and creating strategies for advancing the NIC, connections with other districts to gain insights and strategies, access to essential resources to help guide decision-making processes, and increased visibility and recognition for our participation in this first-of-its-kind global community of experts.

We wanted to take this opportunity to provide updates on our work, learnings, and how we are taking advantage of this unique program.

We participate in monthly sessions with our peers along with speakers and GIID leadership. Each session has a different topic and is highly engaging (cameras on!), collaborative, and informative. The following are highlights from some recent sessions.

Session: Innovation Districts and their Role in Advancing Sustainability

The goal of this large peer session was to discuss the actions that some districts are currently taking or planning on implementing to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Two speakers shared their insights on advancing sustainability. Colleen Autry, Cortex Innovation Community’s Vice President of District Operations, discussed Cortex’s initiatives in developing itself into a carbon-neutral innovation district by 2030. She shared the implications for building design and planning, and energy use for the Cortex community and city of St. Louis at large. Melissa Lapsa, Building Technologies Program Manager for Oak Ridge National Laboratory, spoke about next-generation building technologies and energy management systems to accelerate the adoption of building energy-efficient solutions in the US and beyond. We concluded with a group discussion about what individual districts are undertaking to advance sustainability and the barriers experienced related to these efforts. We were joined by innovation district peers including Phoenix Bioscience Core, Oak Ridge Corridor, Houston’s Ion District, Pittsburgh Innovation District.

Session: Organizing for Success – Governance and Finance

In this peer session, we discussed the role of district champions and the process of enhancing the relationships with our champions. Our district champions can help us reach our full potential by creating a unified vision and set of ambitions, advance strategies to strengthen equity and inclusion, and design and sequence creative financing mechanisms. We also explored questions related to specific governance models. Key topics related to finance focused on generating and diversifying revenue streams and how a district’s expanded value proposition can lead to new revenue streams. An important takeaway was how a district’s assets – economic, networking, and physical – can transform into a unique value proposition.

We were joined by innovation district peers from BioDistrict New Orleans, Brampton Innovation District, and Oklahoma Innovation District, among others.

Session: Unique Specializations and Industry Attraction

The central theme of this session focused on exploring the unique R&D specializations that drive industry attraction in innovation districts. The speakers represented diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise supporting a multifaced and very beneficial discussion among participants. Chad Shearer, GIID’s Director of Research, shared insights from empirical research on innovation districts including the importance of specificity, focusing on specific types of research rather than broad areas, and the role of convergence, or the combination of ideas from different disciplines. We discussed the importance of innovation districts in facilitating technological breakthroughs by bringing together different areas of science and technology. We heard from Phoenix Bioscience Core and Medellin Innovation District leaders who shared valuable case studies and learnings followed by a lively Q+A session.

One-on-One Meeting: Organize for Success

This one-on-one session with Julie Wagner, GIID President, was a fantastic opportunity for district leadership to share our insights and input regarding where the NIC currently stands with organizing for success, including current challenges and opportunities. We worked together as a group to forge strategies that will help advance our ambitions through governance.

These sessions are informative and inspiring, and we are thrilled to have access to this esteemed network to inform us and further our mission and vision.

Interested in learning more about GIID and its work? We encourage you to visit its website, specifically its blog page.