Cincinnati Innovation District® — a remarkable year

CID, a model for the state with new Ohio innovation districts is poised to empower U.S. cities

By Alison Hendrie

Saturday, March 6, marks one year since the unveiling of the Cincinnati Innovation District® (CID) along with a milestone achievement in its goal to make a national impact.

The CID, a connective ecosystem of industry, ideas and talent built to attract people, innovation and investment to the heartland, is already the model for innovation and economic growth for the State of Ohio.

With the announcement of the Cleveland and Columbus Innovation Districts in February by Governor DeWine and Lt Governor Husted, the CID model forged the path for its groundbreaking economic development formula — all focused on talent.

“The Cincinnati Innovation District has had a successful first year as they have begun to develop new opportunities for students and workers in southwest Ohio,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “The partnership between University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Children’s and JobsOhio is positioning Ohio as a leader for innovation and business opportunities.”

The Cincinnati Innovation District® is a purpose-built model that attracts talent as well as Fortune 500, mid-size and developing startups. Since opening the doors of the district’s nerve center, the 1819 Innovation Hub in 2018, the University of Cincinnati has positioned the burgeoning CID to become a template for other Midwest cities.

“In Ohio, we are distinguishing ourselves as the most innovative, entrepreneurial state in the Midwest,” said Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted. “The Cincinnati Innovation District is the leading example of how we can take great ideas from the scientists and innovators and convert them into commercial enterprises that create jobs and improve the quality of life throughout the region. It also creates a talent pipeline for the future that serves both businesses and individuals by giving them the skills and the workforce they need to outcompete anyone in the world.”

March 2020 opening of the Cincinnati Innovation District

Opening event for the Cincinnati Innovation District on March 6, 2020. From left to right: Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley; Michael Fisher, President and CEO of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center; UC President Neville G. Pinto; UC Chief Innovation Officer David Adams; Gov. Mike DeWine; JP Nauseef, JobsOhio; and Lt. Gov Jon Husted. Photo provided.

Regional impact

In a year of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent nationwide shut down, the CID has defied the odds and seen significant success, including signing major new partnerships, expanding startups, increasing virtual connections and accelerating technology transfers to commercialize innovations. This puts the CID on pace to reach its goals, which include creating 20,000 new jobs and $3 billion in annual economic impact to the region while accelerating STEM graduates by 15,000 students and research by $2 billion. 

“A core foundation of our mission as a public university is to meaningfully impact our region and our state,” said UC President Neville G. Pinto. “With the surging talent and innovation movement sweeping the region, and the nation, the Cincinnati Innovation District® is having a substantial impact that will continue to resonate across the state.”

Whether it be companies digitally transforming, individuals who continually upgrade their skill sets and cities who must rise to the challenge ahead, the CID continues to meet and surpass these objectives. New CID partnerships, including Microsoft, IncludeHealth, Kao Brands and Hillman Accelerator, have established more than 1,000 virtual connections to local and national talent.

“In just one year, the Cincinnati Innovation District® has become a leader in the transformation and retention of talent in the Cincinnati region and is able to empower other mid-sized cities to do the same,” said David J. Adams, the first chief innovation officer for the University of Cincinnati and architect for the Cincinnati Innovation District®. “While we can’t all be superstar cities on the coast, we do have a solution for ‘the rest of us’ and as the model for the state, we will persist in ensuring heartland cities nationwide are the beneficiaries of what is possible.”

The past year produced more than 15 virtual talent experiences with examples ranging from Microsoft’s skilling initiative designed to empower digitally fluent talent and a “hackathon” co-sponsored by Kroger and Fifth Third Bank connecting fresh student talent to solve current problems, to the Kao competition that inspired students to create the most compelling brand images and sales pitches for products.

Looking ahead, the district will continue to grow with construction of the Digital Futures Complex, a planned 600K square foot development with the first facility being UC's Interdisciplinary Digital Futures Institute, on target to open in 2022.

Featured image at top: College students collaborate at a KAO innovation event in UC's 1819 Innovation Hub, the nerve center of the Cincinnati Innovation District. Photo/UC Creative + Brand

About the Cincinnati Innovation District

The Cincinnati Innovation District® is a connective ecosystem that attracts, produces, retains and develops talent by co-locating and collaborating with organizations. Unveiled in 2020 by Governor Mike DeWine and fueled by the University of Cincinnati, the district envelops some of the nation’s leading innovators, research centers, talent pools and corporations. Its mission is to become a globally recognized talent hub to lead a transformational movement for all. The combination of industry engagement, unique experiential platforms, accessible research expertise and a Carnegie Level 1 research university — working at the pace of change — will become a model nationwide.